As recently as December 2015, we noted a divide between patient and physician eagerness to adopt telemedicine, with patients wanting it and docs not so sure. A more recent survey shows hospital administrators and medical personnel are changing direction and for many reasons, they are anticipating benefits from telemedicine.
Granted that surveys from different organizations will vary, even if rendered on the same day with identical populations and survey instruments. The more variables are controlled, however, the closer the results should be: an indication of measurement reliability. The 2016 U.S. Telemedicine Industry Benchmark Survey by REACH Health was conducted in late November and December 2015 with 390 U.S. healthcare executives, physicians, nurses and other professionals. The same survey was administered to approximately 234 medical personnel when gathering data for last year’s survey. Using the same instrument year to year adds validity to any observations about differences in numbers. So with the research, statistics, and experimental design issues put aside, let’s take a look at the differences between 2015 and 2016 as reported in the 2016 survey’s executive summary.
Approximately two-thirds of the surveyed medical personnel listed telemedicine as a top priority; this represents a 10% increase over the previous year. These are early days yet for telemedicine with varying systems and inter-communications hurdles to cross. Reimbursement for care and lack of standard Electronic Medical Records (EMR) are the most formidable issues in the way, but for the doctors, it’s all about patient care.
The survey found that the top three objectives for telemedicine were better patient outcomes (96 percent of the respondents), patient convenience (87 percent), and patient engagement and satisfaction (86 percent). One interesting observation from the survey was that existing programs with full-time telemedicine coordinators were 43 percent more likely to be highly successful than programs overseen by someone who spent half their time on the program. Looks like another career path is opening up.
In the past few years the range and variety of Health Tech devices, programs, and systems have increased significantly with no end in sight. As long as the focus stays on patient care and real results, the reimbursement issues could flatten due to cost savings of service delivery and hopefully even higher positive outcomes.