Importance: Clinicians are increasingly adopting telemedicine in an effort to expand patient access and efficiently deliver care . However, the extent to which otolaryngologists provide telemedicine services is unclear .
Objective: To characterize recent trends in the use of telemedicine by otolaryngologists to deliver care to Medicare beneficiaries . Design, Setting, and Participants: A retrospective cross-sectional analysis was conducted between January 1 , 2010, and December 31 , 2018, using publicly available Medicare Physician/Supplier Procedure Summary data on physicians practicing in the field of otolaryngology and benchmark specialties (dermatology and psychiatry) that provided telemedicine services to Medicare beneficiaries . Main Outcomes and Measures: Primary outcomes were the mean annual number of telemedicine services delivered per active physician and mean annual payment per active physician for these services . Secondary outcomes included the number, setting, and complexity of telemedicine services .
Results: Between 2010 and 2018, otolaryngologists provided 2127 total telemedicine services (7 unique service types) to Medicare beneficiaries and received $88â¯574 in total payment for these services . During this period, the mean number of telemedicine services increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.0%, and the mean Medicare payment per otolaryngologist increased at a CAGR of 21.8% . In comparison, telemedicine use during this period generally increased at a higher rate in the fields of dermatology (mean number of services per active physician at CAGR of 13.0% ; mean Medicare payment per active physician at CAGR of 12.5 %) and psychiatry (mean number of services per active physician at CAGR of 25.8% ; mean Medicare payment per active physician at CAGR of 26.6 %). In 2018, outpatient evaluation and management visits accounted for most telemedicine services provided (337 of 353 [95.5 %] ) and the payments received ($ 17â¯542.13 of $18â¯470.47 [95.0 %] ) by otolaryngologists . In contrast, physicians in other specialties also provided substantial portions of telemedicine services in the inpatient (psychiatry , 18â¯403 of 198â¯478 [9.3 %]; dermatology , 231 of 1034 [22.3 %] ) and skilled nursing facility settings (psychiatry , 14â¯690 of 198â¯478 [7.4 %]; dermatology , 46 of 1034 [4.4 %] ). Conclusions and Relevance: This study suggests that the extent to which otolaryngologists used telemedicine to deliver care to Medicare beneficiaries between 2010 and 2018 was rare . Although there was relative growth in the use of telemedicine by otolaryngologists during this period, absolute growth remained low . Policy makers and provider organizations should support otolaryngologists in the adoption of telemedicine technologies, especially while coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) viral suppression efforts necessitate prolonged restriction of physical clinic throughput.