Virtual Care Supported by Consumers and Physicians Not Adopted Due to Privacy, Reimbursement Concerns

Deloitte center virtual care survey

Deloitte Center for Health Solutions surveys of both U.S. health care consumers and physicians have found while consumers and physicians support virtual care, many physicians are unwilling to embrace the technologies, due to worries about reimbursement, privacy and other issues. Among other findings the results show how health systems can encourage physicians to overcome resistance and close the gap on virtual care.

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Virtual care replaces traditional care therapy by using telemedicine and other communication technologies.

The results showed that 64 percent of consumers and 66 percent of physicians cite enhanced patient access as the main benefit of virtual care. Among the physicians surveyed, 52 percent agree that virtual care supports the goals of patient-centricity, including improved patient satisfaction and 45 percent agree it helps staying connected with patients and their caregivers.

However, when it comes to using virtual care in practice, physicians lose their enthusiasm. While majority of the consumers (57%) favor video-based visits, only 14% physicians have the capability and only 18% of the rest plan to add this capability.

The primary causes of physician reluctance were found to be lack of reimbursement, along with complex licensing requirements and high cost technologies. Yet changing reimbursement models may be a catalyst for virtual care adoption.

“Changes in health care reimbursement models, combined with growing consumer demand, are driving health systems to embrace virtual care, but they are struggling to get physicians on board,” said Dr. Ken Abrams, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “However, getting buy-in from physicians may not be as difficult as organizations might expect: most physicians who have tried the technologies associated with virtual care feel good about them. It’s important to help physicians understand how virtual care improves care quality and lessens patient or caregiver burden.”

Clinical staff at the Mercy Virtual Care Center, Chesterfield, Missouri, monitoring a remote patient. (Photo: Mercy Virtual Care Center)

The survey also found that 36% of health care professionals worry about medical errors and 33% worry about data security and privacy associated with virtual care.

Virtual care in today’s healthcare

According to the survey, email/patient portal consultations are the most prevalent virtual care technology used by responding physicians (38 percent), followed by physician-to-physician consultations (17 percent) and virtual/video visits (14 percent).

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The need for virtual care

Many obstacles to virtual care adoption have been removed and the remaining barriers could soon disappear, according to the research.  Virtual care could emerge as a competitive advantage, helping to grow the patient base, as physicians who deliver good patient-centered care will likely be in high demand. Insurers and employers may also favor health systems with virtual care capabilities.

“Virtual care capabilities can help physicians meet ever-increasing demands on their time and skill: caring for more patients, dealing with rising clinical complexity, and helping patients play a greater role in their own care,” added Steve Burrill, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP. “Organizations are unlikely to achieve this without developing virtual care capabilities. If they fail to act now, they risk losing significant market share as customers seek other solutions to meet their needs.”