Telehealth Growth Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

Whether it’s video conferencing from 1,000 miles away or wearable fitness trackers, telehealth technologies have been a burgeoning health care solution in the last few years, and they will continue to be a driver in improving outcomes in the years to come, a recent survey suggests.

A spike in remote monitoring since 2013 and greater adoption of health care wearables to capture population health data are two top telehealth trends in 2015, according to Healthcare Intelligence Network’s latest HINntelligence Report: Telehealth & Telemedicine in 2015.

The range of telehealth and telemedicine services has grown in the two years since HIN last conducted a telehealth survey. The majority of organizations had telehealth programs in place in both 2013 and 2015, but of those that do not, 64% now say they would launch a service in the next 12 months, versus 24% in 2013. 

“Many organizations successfully oversee patients with diabetes, congestive heart failure and other chronic conditions via remote monitoring, engaging these individuals in self-care while warding off avoidable hospital visits,” said Melanie Matthews, HIN executive vice president and chief operating officer, in a written statement. 

In terms of the types of telehealth technologies seeing the most usage, videoconferencing remained a leading technology in both 2013 and 2015, cited by 59% and 48% of the survey’s total 116 respondents, respectively.

Meanwhile, using telehealth to treat patients with chronic conditions such as congestive heart failure (53% in 2013 vs. 57% in 2015) and diabetes (50% in 2013 vs. 58% in 2015) continued to be the top concerns targeted by telehealth groups in both HIN surveys.

Of all clinical applications for telehealth, remote monitoring jumped from 57% to 63% in the two years HIN conducted its survey.

Even less clinical telehealth technologies came into the fold, with about 26% of respondents using wearable devices such as fitness trackers, smart clothing, pedometers and smart watches.

But even with the increased usage of telehealth over the past two years, there remains uncertainty as to when implementing these technologies begins to pay off. In that vein, 50% of respondents said it is too soon to tell what their return on investment is from telehealth programs.  

Despite ROI uncertainties, nearly 60% of respondents said they are reimbursed for telehealth from private payors. Nearly three-fourths of survey respondents (74%) even said they expect Medicare to add remote patient monitoring to its list of covered telehealth services in the next 12 months.

“As the payor outlook for telehealth grows more favorable, organizations wishing to invest in wearables, remote monitoring, blood pressure cuffs and other telehealth technologies can profit from peers’ experiences and feedback presented in this resource,” said Matthews. 

HIN administered its 2015 Telehealth & Telemedicine survey in March 2015, inviting respondents to take the survey via email, e-newsletter and social networking reminders throughout the month.

Of the total 116 respondents, only 63 identified their organization type, which broke down as 16% being hospitals, 11% were physician organizations, employers and health plans; 6% were home health care and 5% were disease management. Respondents who categorized their organization as “other” accounted for 33%. 

Written by Jason Oliva