More doctors are participating in telemedicine, and the amount continues to grow, according to a new study.
In what is said to be the first study of its kind, Doximity analyzed U.S. physician interest in telemedicine jobs, examining interest by age, employment status, gender, geographic location, and specialty.
The study analyzed physician profiles on Doximity, a professional medical network with more than 70% of all U.S. doctors as members and identified those profiles which self-reported “telemedicine” as a skill. Physician engagement with job postings advertised on the platform was also examined. For this report, engagement is defined as a physician taking action in response to a job posting by clicking on a posting to “see more,” or submitting a resume or scheduling an input call.
The study found that the number of physicians who self-reported telemedicine as a skill between 2015 and 2018 has doubled and continues to increase annually by 20%. This growth in physician interest correlates with the increasing number of telemedicine patient visits, which has jumped 261% annually between 2015 and 2017, according to a recent report published in JAMA.
“The data also shows growing physician interest in locum tenens work, which is a temporary position,” says Peter Alperin, MD, vice president at Doximity.
“Physicians who are interested in telemedicine job opportunities may be more inclined to take or hold a position at a health system that offers this alternative to traditional clinical settings,” Alperin says. “Additionally, other studies show that for patients, telemedicine can help expand access to care, especially in rural areas where doctor shortages have been more acutely felt.”
Healthcare executives should pay attention to the rise of telemedicine and adapt their policies accordingly, according to Alperin. “It may be essential for them to ensure that there are enough physicians available to meet the increasing demand generated by the growth of telemedicine in their area,” he says.
In addition to the rising interest in telemedicine among physicians, the report found nearly equal engagement in telemedicine job postings across different age groups. Additionally, when analyzing both telemedicine and locum tenens work by gender, data showed that women were 10% more interested in telemedicine jobs, but significantly less engaged in locum tenens work than their male counterparts.
Based on the study, Alperin shares the five things healthcare execs need to know about telemedicine:
- Physicians are embracing telemedicine as an alternative to traditional clinical settings.
- Younger physicians are not the only ones embracing telemedicine. Physicians of all ages are showing equal interest and see the benefits for themselves and their patients.
- Telemedicine may offer more flexibility and control for a physician’s hours and schedule than traditional care settings. “It also allows physicians to expand their patient base and gain more exposure to patient cases they may not have come across otherwise,” Alperin says.
- Telemedicine may serve as an additional form of income for physicians who are still trying to pay off their medical school debt, or who may live in metros that have a higher cost of living.
- Full-time physicians are most interested in temporary positions. This could be for a number of reasons, such as to try new areas of practice, new care settings or for a temporary geographic relocation.