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Five Trends that Indicate Telehealth Adoption Is on the Rise

TechSource Editor

July 17, 2014  |  Collaboration  •  Telehealth

Some claim the early television experiments in 1955 as the origin of telehealth, which makes telehealth more than half a century old. Wide adoption of telehealth has had multiple challenges including, but not limited to, reimbursement, affordability and experience gaps.

However, recently the stars have aligned for telehealth adoption to take off. According to BCC research, the global telemedicine market is expected to grow to 27.3 billion by 2016. According to the AHA (American Hospital Association) report, 42 percent of U.S. acute care hospitals have telehealth capabilities. While healthcare reforms have significantly boosted adoption, there are more trends that are fueling the fire.

Here are five trends that are influencing the adoption curve:

1. Paradigm shift generated by healthcare reforms

The U.S. healthcare reforms have created a fundamental paradigm shift in focusing efforts on driving wellness and preventive care as compared to episodic care. The longer-term relationship between the patients and provider has put patient engagement and care coordination at the center. This need has created a renewed interest in telehealth as it can provide not only a convenient and cost effective way to interact, but also drive experience and efficiencies for the patients and providers by providing better collaboration capabilities from anywhere.

2. Policy changes and legislation for reimbursements

In years past, while the technology to enable telehealth was in place, the issue of reimbursement kept many organizations and providers from even considering it. Today, with the new long-term wellness focus as opposed to episodic care and cost avoidance models, reimbursement is no longer the conversation-stopper that it used to be. Additionally, states have been catching up on their policies to support telemedicine. Currently, roughly 40 states allow Medicaid to pay for telemedicine visits and about 20 states have required private payers to pay for telemedicine.

3. New business models

As the transition from pay-for-service to a value-based model plays out, innovative new business models are emerging to help drive telehealth as a sustainable business. For example, fixed/flat fee-based consults, corporate clinic models, cost-avoidance strategies and wellness initiatives have created a renewed interest in telehealth.

4. Pervasive video

In the past, the promise of telehealth used to be that, instead of needing to travel 200 miles to see a specialist, patients could access services at their local clinic where that specialist could evaluate patients via elaborate telehealth systems. With the recent consumerization of video, patients can now participate in telehealth sessions from their homes from a host of different devices: a mobile phone, a tablet, a laptop, video phones or other specialized devices. The cost of video has also been significantly reduced, which has improved the affordability of telehealth programs. Leveraging software-based video solutions has expanded reach not just within enterprise boundaries, but from anywhere, creating a borderless collaboration experience between providers. The rise of WebRTC and other video standards has increased interoperability and will pave the way for continued adoption.

5. Evolution of the medical devices

In the early days of telehealth, examination room tables could be pretty intimidating to patients. There were cables and bulky boxes to which the devices were connected, creating a confusing and even scary patient experience. The complexity and the cost of such elaborate telehealth settings were also a hindrance to adoption.

The evolution to smaller, more cost-effective consumer-focused devices with wireless connectivity has improved user experience and has expanded telehealth adoption. The “Internet of Things” has enabled device connectivity the ability for practitioners to obtain data from sensors in order to track vital signs and other activities related to patient wellness and ongoing management of medical conditions.

(This post was adapted from 10 Trends why TeleHealth adoption will take off from the Cisco blog. Read the original post to explore five more trends impacting telehealth adoption.)

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