Telehealth Technology Expands but Challenges Remain
Healthcare, like so many other industries, is utilizing technology to adapt to changing needs. For example, many healthcare providers are expanding their patient communication strategies to include “telemedicine” or “telehealth.” Although hopes are high that these services will expand, there are many hurdles to widespread adoption across the United States.
A recent survey conducted by Modern Healthcare Custom Media for Avizia, a provider of telehealth software and services, indicates that 63% of healthcare providers currently use telehealth in some way. The care is mostly for stroke (44%) and behavioral health (39%) as well as primary care (22%). However, when asked in which areas they would like to implement telehealth in the future, most respondents chose patient education and training (34%), remote patient home monitoring (30%), and primary care (27%). (1)
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Currently, caregivers say that they provide remote healthcare services using computer workstations on wheels or tablets on “sticks” (40%), but others (33%) say they use telemedicine carts and peripherals, such as cameras and scopes. However, the push for future advancements, according to those surveyed, is to provide telehealth services via video through their EMRs as well as mobile apps for “provider-to-provider and patient-to-provider communications.” (1)
Despite the growing increase in demand and providers’ interest in advancing the services, the Avizia data indicates that there are many barriers to expansion. The primary obstacles, cited by about half of the responding organizations, are the “necessary investments for telehealth technology and infrastructure (50%) and issues related to reimbursement (48%).” However, according to the survey’s participants, reimbursement is the primary barrier that providers would like to eliminate—even more than they would like to eliminate the technology investments. (1)
Obviously, if payers won’t cover telehealth services, then caregivers must charge patients, which is likely to deter patients from seeking remote services. The good news recently is that lawmakers seem to be supportive of the telehealth trend and have introduced the CONNECT for Health Act, which would “expand the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring services in Medicare, toward the goal of cost savings and quality care.” (2)
Nevertheless, with so many challenges at the front door of this trend, will the healthcare industry continue to push forward, or will change grind to halt, requiring that the primary interaction between patient and clinician remain the in-person visit?
1) Closing the Telehealth Gap; Modern Healthcare Custom Media for Avizia; https://www.mediware.com/wp-content/uploads/Closing-the-Telehealth-Gap-Research-Report.pdf