A deep dive into telemedicine goals and challenges: Part one

Steve McGraw, Chief Executive Officer, REACH Health

In a rapidly changing U.S. healthcare market, telemedicine programs have proven successful in enabling better care for a larger population of patients. But in the case of any maturing industry, telemedicine is in the midst of an evolution, where technologies and processes are adapting to the needs of clinicians who are increasingly comfortable with remote care.

We started the annual U.S. Telemedicine Benchmark Survey to take an objective look at  how the industry was evolving and what was driving those changes. Each year, we spend months surveying healthcare executives, physicians and nurses across the U.S. about their telemedicine priorities, goals and challenges. The survey results provide a real-world look at the state of U.S. telemedicine, the opportunities for better patient care and the challenges that need to be overcome to get there.

In a series of upcoming articles, I will walk through the findings of the 2016 U.S. Telemedicine Benchmark Survey and discuss what exactly they mean for hospitals, clinicians and patients.

Telemedicine is a growing priority. This year’s survey found that nearly two-thirds of participants (from across acute-, specialty-, community-based and chronic-care organizations) noted telemedicine as one of their top priorities, which represents a 10 percent increase from 2015. This rise is not surprising, especially since telemedicine is becoming more mainstream due to an aging population and an increasing shortage of specialist physicians.

Hospitals and healthcare systems are also exhibiting an increasing trend toward enterprise telemedicine. By this, I mean that providers are quickly expanding the number of telemedicine services offered. On average, respondents had 4.6 service lines with telemedicine programs active or being implemented. This is an 18 percent increase from last year. Health systems are further along, with 5.5 service lines (19 percent increase from 2015) vs. stand-alone hospitals, with 2.95 service lines (15 percent increase from 2015).

So we know hospitals are expanding their telemedicine programs, but what are they trying to accomplish? In our survey, we took a look at the major objectives that healthcare organizations hoped to achieve with telemedicine. In my next article, we’ll discuss these goals in more detail, including patient care, physician efficiency, readmission reductions, financial and reputational gains and clinical trial support.

REACH recently hosted a webinar that looks more closely at the survey results (available for free on-demand). Bill Boling, the principal at Boling & Company and a talented attorney with more than a decade of telemedicine experience, examined the key trends and factors that are having the biggest impact on telemedicine success. 

REACH Health, Telehealth, telemedicine, U.S. Telemedicine Benchmark Survey


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