A recent study shows that many physicians in the regional healthcare systems are getting ready to shift to telemedicine and virtual staffing services and slowly veering away from in-clinic consultations. At the end of 2020, more doctors are looking to include virtual care in their medical practice. Let’s take a look at what’s new among the female working population. Discover the reasons behind them being fast adopters of telehealth and virtual staffing services.
Looking back, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed data from 3,473 doctors. These physicians deliver ambulatory care through Mass General Brigham, including 12 hospitals. Researchers mentioned that some physicians were quicker than others when transitioning to telehealth. The accessibility and availability of a physician influenced the experience of patients.
Why Virtual Care Matters to All, Especially Women
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the sudden shift to virtual care. However, researchers say that this is not absolute. Some patients who felt unsafe when they sought healthcare in person were also left behind.
Using Epic electronic health record data, the research team got the number of physicians who made the transition by analyzing visits between October 1, 2019, and December 31, 2020.
The public health emergency declaration was on March 15, 2020. At the same time, the transition escalated at a fast pace in their system. Some 3,473 physicians were categorized into the following: :
- Innovators. Composed of 13.8% who made virtual visits before March 15, 2020. Large portions are younger generations, specializing in primary care and behavioral health.
- Early adopters. Consist of 45% who transitioned during the week of March 15. With younger generations.
- Majority. Contains 35.6% who adopted telehealth on March 22, 2022, or later.
- Persistent non-adopters. Comprise 5.6% who never made adoption through December 31, 2020.
Females are most often the gender of innovators and early adopters. Doctors specializing in surgery and having birth years between 1928 and 1945 (also called the Silent Generation) belong to the early adopters as well.
What makes it more interesting, early adoption rises when patients prefer speaking in a different language other than English. This decreases when patients come from an ethnic or racial minority group.
Access to healthcare should be equal to all groups of patients. This is why it is critical to carefully examine how the physicians’ patient panels interact with the adoption of virtual healthcare.
The Larger Trend in Virtual Staffing Services
Using telehealth and virtual staffing services spiked initially and then leveled off. Many physicians prefer making virtual healthcare expansion permanent, potentially focusing on primary care for future innovation.
At any rate, they emphasize how the policy changes are essential in overcoming existing challenges like reimbursement clarity and training for more efficient technology usage.
On the Record
The data collection of the research team didn’t uncover the reasons why physicians chose to adopt virtual healthcare while others didn’t do so. Several explanations include but aren’t limited to, the caregiving roles of women are a toll during the COVID-19 pandemic. Another is that women have many roles to sustain their families. Virtual healthcare and virtual staffing services provide a convenient solution to balance these roles.
Women Doctors and Patients are Disproportionately Consuming Telehealth
According to the data from the telehealth vendors located in the United States, significant visits indicate a larger number of women than men.
One example is virtual care giant Teladoc. The first quarter of 2021 indicated 64% of those who made general medical visits were women, while 36% were men. Mostly, women aged 25 to 44 used telehealth frequently, while women between the ages of 45 to 64 used it to manage their chronic conditions.
Formerly known as American Well, the Boston-based provider network Amwell observed a sudden increase of male patients during the initial pandemic spike in 2020. In their business lines and therapeutic areas that use telehealth holistically, female patients are seen to likely use virtual healthcare more.
In the same way, telehealth company MDLive indicated that nearly two-thirds of its users of their platform are women with more than half of its wellness screenings per year being women aged 25 to 45 that used 70% of female wellness screenings. This suggests that virtual care plays a vital role in women’s overall health needs.
Anecdotally, the benefit of consumers is to save time. They no longer wait in line to visit the doctor in the clinic making it convenient to call in from anywhere. Traditionally, women sacrifice their healthcare needs just to focus on their family members and their needs. Despite the unique challenges the pandemic keeps on adding, it’s a relief that women will have access to simple and hassle-free healthcare.
Also, virtual care services offered by female physicians have higher rates compared to males because of the same reason. Women dominate the Doctor on Demand’s physicians with slightly over 60% and the vendor’s use with 65%. These figures stayed consistent over the pandemic.
According to Doximity‘s data, the physicians who adopted telemedicine at a higher rate are women compared with men during COVID-19. Analyzing the gender of those doctors who have an interest in telemedicine job opportunities found that 24% consists of women relative to men. Compared to the data in 2019, this increase indicates how engaged women are at a 10% rate on the job ads than their male co-workers.
Facilitating Caregiving for US Women
Another typical scenario is unpaid caregiving and childcare that lays heavy on women. Even if many caregivers find it emotionally fulfilling, this also causes stress in their physical and mental health. In contrast to those who aren’t involved in caregiving, women report poor health, experience one or more chronic health conditions, and manifest mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
Of four caregivers, one stated difficulties in taking care of their health. This is parallel to reports stating that caregiving makes their condition worse. The resulting shortage of professional caregivers leads to an increased burden on American women. Because of this, mothers and caregivers resorted to telehealth to examine and decide their physical and mental wellbeing, as well as that of their loved ones.
MDLive stated that their platform had a patient use virtual care for their child. Compared with last year, this year saw more virtual visits for children’s urgent care. Amwell’s senior medical director Mia Finkelston said that they’ve seen many mothers call in for their children during summer.
How Telemedicine is Convenient and Accessible
Courtney Tobin is a communications specialist at the health services company Cardinal Health. She gave birth to her baby who needed surgery for a double hernia and had to do 30-minute multiple trips to the closest hospital for children. Using telehealth and services using virtual staff, she was able to do convenient follow-ups. Tobin can stay at home with her two children while specialists checked the incisions of her baby. She found this very convenient as she recalled how her husband was working at that time while she was on maternity leave.
She also used virtual care for the first time for herself. She needed a checkup for her eyes which were already highly prone to infection but had to stay home with her second child who was sick from school. She and her husband did full-time remote work. All her booked appointments with her doctor were in-person however, she was fortunate to book a telehealth slot.
Female doctors find this convenience significant for them and their families. They can take care of their patients giving easily accessible medical care while their schedules remain flexible as they balance their responsibilities on caregiving. Finkelston found this flexibility incredible as a mother with three kids because she won’t be stressed out working full time while raising her family.
University of Pennsylvania’s cardiologist Lauren Eberly also said that telehealth can increase access even in specialized care. This service removes her worries as a specialty physician as it allows her a more convenient option to deliver the best care possible for her patients.
Psychiatrist Shivani Beri started practicing in Bay Area in San Francisco early last year, right before the pandemic happened. She tried telehealth before and when the pandemic hit, she quickly turned 100% virtual. In February 2020, she signed an office lease for her workplace but this was not used. She appreciates the convenience of telehealth and has since made her home a quiet workspace now that her kids aged 3 and 6 are back to school. She prefers to remain working remotely.
Telemental Health A Specific Boon
Using telehealth for mental health has significant gender differences. Women have flocked to support telemedicine because of the pandemic situation.
The number of female patients has since surpassed males in using mental health services. Women seem to need it more because of certain mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. They also don’t often experience stigmas based on their gender when they seek and get mental help.
Telehealth now provides services such as visiting a counselor or psychiatrist more widely available. The majority of U.S. counties don’t have an available resident psychiatrist. Patients who are depressed have difficulty getting out of their beds and leaving their homes just to attend their doctor’s appointments. But now, patients merely need to answer when the phone rings or get on their computers and tablets. Doctors provide accessible care through remote consults,
Global depression and anxiety among women and young adults are the pandemic’s byproduct. The rates went up more than 25% in 2019. For Teladoc, it skyrocketed from 64% to 71%. Using MDLive’s platform, women who made behavioral health visits consisted of 71%, and those users who have high frequency and repetitive behavioral health issues composed of 70%.
While for Amwell, the patients who seek telehealth for immediate care are almost 63% of women. Of that figure, 72% are in therapy and 65% are in psychiatry. Women resonate more with wellness than men who don’t feel the need or see the importance of seeing a doctor.
American males are not quite open to the idea of asking for help nor is it ingrained in the culture to seek medical assistance for their mental health. A 2015 survey showed anxiety, depression, and stress in 77% of men. But 40% of that figure stated that they reached suicidal and self-harm thoughts before actually seeking professional help of any kind, much less counseling on mental health.
But the pandemic seemed to increase the number of men using telemental health. In Teladoc, most of their mental health visits consist of women. But the number of men is steadily growing and outpacing women, President Kelly Bliss of their U.S. Group Health business said. Their fastest-growing segment for depression is men aged 18 to 24 years old, having 765% yearly growth, while 915% yearly increase for anxiety-related visits. As the mental health stigma decreases, men who seek care have become more comfortable in their own skin.
In December 2020, the lead author UPenn cardiologist Eberly conducted a study published in JAMA. The usage of telemedicine increased in overall primary care and correlated the female gender. But women didn’t use telehealth for specialty cases access or video modalities.
Eberly also said that the reason could be that women who are burdened with childcare duties restrict their time to engage in specialty telemedicine care. Also, the pandemic situation caused the high rates of unemployment in women. Their insurance based on their job have either increased rates or they chose to discontinue. This created a financial strain because of the higher copayments to avail of specialty care.
But Phoenix Virtual Solutions provide the utmost affordable care for our clients. We feel you! Our virtual assistant services rates depend on your delegation of tasks, ensuring affordable and very convenient service for any individual across the board.
Childcare duties are a constant part of our life, and with the unpredictable havoc of the COVID-19 pandemic still plaguing the world, this limits women in engaging in specialty care because of their obligations to look after their homes and care for their children. But through telehealth, women can readily communicate and contact their doctors via cloud communication apps such as Ring Central which provides a comprehensive communications solution for online meetings and video conferencing.
Losing Access Would Hit Women Hardest
The U.S. has patchwork laws and insurance coverage that undermined accessible telehealth for years. But losing this broader access that legislators and regulators shepherded during the COVID-19 pandemic would affect women the hardest, especially those in the low-income and the Black community.
The pandemic gave birth to telehealth and healthcare virtual staffing services in general. Telemedicine allowed us to meet the patient’s needs, their health status, and provide treatment that works best for them. This learning opportunity can lower disparities and aid in access to healthcare which have traditional barriers.
Emergency orders on public health across the U.S. continued to rise. Some states introduced new legislation to retain virtual care provisions, while several others stopped telehealth expansions and resume restrictions on medical licenses that are out of the state. Few states need payers to pay telehealth visits at the same costs as those in in-person. Since women consume this service more, this also hit them harder because it results in gaps in affordability and coverage.
Women don’t always use telehealth videos and prefer only audio. which concerns them most if access is restricted. At the start of the pandemic,
reimbursement for telephone visits became lower and affected care providers for minority and female patients.
When this emergency expires, Medicare will no longer offer payment parity for telephone and video visits. Many healthcare providers and telehealth vendors are advocates of making legislative action more permanent. This ensures that telemedicine has payment parity including those over the phone only.
Washington is still unsure if they’ll deliver. Many introduced bills can codify greater access to telehealth and support from bipartisan leaders on the broad spectrum of the Hill. Meanwhile, politicians are in favor to continue allowing audio-only telehealth post-pandemic. But legislators find it insufficient to address numerous health needs with deep concerns. If the usage of telehealth is rampant, it could put more cost into the system. Because of this, audio-only visits will not continue to be paid at parity after the pandemic subsides.
The United States must entrench policies and practices to build systems to cater to communities’ needs, especially with women. Way before, structural inequality mostly affected women.
Telehealth’s convenience and immediacy are unique, especially for parents having kids at home. But telehealth has obvious limitations:
- Everything cannot be done over video
- Patients have trust issues regarding meeting new doctors over video.
Women preferred doing in-person visits for medical needs that are serious or have no certainty. Many patients and working parents still prefer to visit the doctor in person as much as possible. But they will continue to use it after the pandemic because of its convenient features and in cases where you cannot get an appointment.
Let Phoenix Virtual Solutions ease your burden and lighten your load by hiring HIPAA-trained healthcare virtual staff. As a women and gender equality advocate and woman-owned company, we treat each member of your workforce equally without discrimination of any kind. Contact us today as we assist you and your business through the pandemic.