Telemedicine moving into mainstream for healthcare providers
April 4, 2016
Telemedicine continues evolving from a specialty-centric offering to a mainstream service, according to the results from the Reach Health 2016 US Telemedicine Industry Benchmark Survey. Roughly two-thirds of respondents indicated that telemedicine was the top priority or one of the highest priorities for their healthcare organisation – a ten per cent increase from the 2015 survey results.
“Telemedicine decision-making is rapidly moving from individual departments and specialties to an enterprise initiative,” said Steve McGraw, president and CEO of Reach Health. “Both hospitals and health systems reported significant increases in the average number of telemedicine service lines which are active or being implemented in concert.”
Though telemedicine programmes for different medical specialties vary widely in maturity and clinical application, all service lines studied share a high degree of activity in terms of planning and implementation. Additionally, disparate service lines are united in their top objectives, which are all patient-oriented. Improving patient outcomes, improving patient convenience, and increasing patient engagement and satisfaction are the top three most common objectives for telemedicine programmes.
While telemedicine is becoming increasingly common across service lines and care settings, its growth is impeded primarily by two factors. Issues stemming from reimbursement and limitations of EMR systems account for six of the top seven challenges identified by survey participants.
“Telemedicine reimbursement poses the primary obstacle to success, but EMR-related challenges are persistent and widely noted in the survey,” said McGraw. “There is clearly a high demand in the industry for EMR integration, specifically the two-way flow of individual data elements between telemedicine platforms and EMR systems.”
The survey also examined programme attributes and correlated them with success. As uncovered in the 2015 benchmark survey, the degree of focus of the telemedicine programme manager was strongly correlated with success. Executive support revealed a significantly higher correlation with success than adequacy of funding.
“Based on the survey data and our experience working with many providers, it’s not surprising that executive support is so important to telemedicine success,” added McGraw. “Using an enterprise approach, hospital leadership seeks to replicate the well-documented improvements in care across multiple service lines and at affiliated hospitals.”
There were 390 healthcare executives, physicians, nurses and other professionals who participated in the telemedicine industry survey, which covered a wide variety of telemedicine-related topics such as priorities, programme models and management structures.