Survey: Telehealth becoming mainstream at many hospitals
- Hospital and integrated health system telemedicine programs are increasingly being managed centrally across service lines and care settings, a new Reach Health survey shows.
- Among 436 healthcare professionals, 36% said their organization currently has an enterprise approach to telemedicine and 25% said they are moving from a departmental to enterprise approach.
- For the second straight year, patient-oriented motivations led other telemedicine objectives. However, reducing cost also ranked high on organizations’ telehealth goals.
Improving patient outcomes topped the list of telemedicine program objectives, at 89%, followed by increasing patient engagement and satisfaction (86%) and improving patient convenience (82%). Also high on the list were increasing access to care for rural patients (81%) and enhancing use of limited physicians (75%). Reducing cost of care delivery and reducing hospital readmissions weighed in at 73% and 71%, respectively.
Asked how important telemedicine was to their organization, 30% of respondents said it was a high priority, 36% tagged it medium priority and 21% included it among top priorities. Just 13% said it was a low priority.
The survey also showed a lot of uncertainty about how legislation repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) might impact telemedicine, should Congress approve a bill. About 40% of respondents said it would likely increase both internal and patient adoption of telemedicine. However, that optimism dimmed when it came to Medicare and Medicaid. Only 23% of respondents felt reimbursement of the public programs would increase and 8% thought it would decrease.
Following November’s presidential election, telemedicine and other health IT companies were cautiously optimistic about life under a Trump administration. After all, an administration focused on cutting costs could be good for alternative care services. But that depends, in part, on millions of Americans maintaining health insurance. A Congressional Budget Office analysis of House Republicans’ original ACA repeal bill estimated more than 20 million people could lose coverage under that plan.
Telemedicine continues to be a top-drawing category for venture capital funding, with $112 million in deals in the 2017 first quarter, according to a recent Mercom Capital Group report.
With 30% of Medicare payments now tied to alternative payment models and HHS targeting 50% by the end of 2018, telemedicine offers providers a way to increase care access and quality while reducing costs. MACRA specifically mentions telemedicine and remote patient monitoring as services that alternative payment models may cover, even if those services are not reimbursed under traditional Medicare.