- Three-fourths of healthcare organizations offer or plan to offer telehealth services this year, according to Foley & Lardner’s 2017 Telemedicine and Digital Health Survey.
- Healthcare’s current embrace of telemedicine contrasts sharply with 2014, when the survey debuted. At that time, 87% of respondents did not anticipate patients would be using virtual care services at this time.
- Of those with existing telehealth programs, more than half reported plans to grow their telemedicine programs, including overseas.
Among the survey’s key findings:
- More than seven in 10 respondents reported “extreme satisfaction” or “satisfaction” with telemedicine and 60% cited improved patient access and scheduling flexibility.
- Nearly a third of those who track return on investment reported telehealth-related savings of 20% or more.
- More than eight in 10 said telemedicine was fueling expansion of other digital health services, such as mobile health apps and remote patient monitoring.
- Nearly 60% flagged third-party reimbursement as the greatest challenge to implementing telemedicine programs, followed by state licensing requirements (44%) and securing physician support (32%).
- While just 22% offer international telehealth services today, 32% said they want to do so, and 80% of that group plan to launch international telehealth programs in the next three years.
“The pendulum has swung to really embrace telemedicine, which wasn't close to being adopted and implemented on this scale when the respondents were first surveyed in 2014," Nathaniel Lacktman, chair of the firm’s telemedicine industry team and co-chair of the firm’s digital health work group, said in a statement. “Healthcare providers, entrepreneurs and patients alike have realized the potential to improve the quality of care in a more convenient, cost-effective manner which, in turn, has put pressure on the payer community to evolve their reimbursement strategies.”
The survey is further proof that telehealth is gaining a solid foothold in healthcare. In a survey earlier this year, 35% of healthcare professionals reported their organization has an enterprise approach to telemedicine and 25% said they are moving toward that goal. Three in 10 said telemedicine was a high priority in their organization.
Medicare payments for telehealth increased 28% last year to $28.7 million as more providers offered virtual visits to traditional fee-for-service beneficiaries. The number of telehealth claims also grew by 33%.
Legislation pending in Congress would expand access to telehealth services to members in Medicare Advantage plans and cover telestroke and telehealth access to chronic care for Medicare recipients.