Telemedicine has yet to reach its stride, but the adoption rate is picking up with estimated annual compound growth rates between 18% and 27.5%, according to Sage Growth Partners. Healthcare executives increasingly see appropriate telemedicine as an essential component of their services. We’ve written often about telemedicine, from practice-specific dermatology store-and-forward diagnostic applications to surveys that show growing patient interest in and positive impressions of telemedicine even if they’ve never had personal experience.

Sage Growth Partners recently published a study of telemedicine’s role in hospitals and the attitudes of hospital leadership. Primary research with more than 100 healthcare executives produced some significant takeaways. The most important finding of the report is the overwhelming positive attitude medical leaders reported they had about telemedicine. It is interesting to note that this view is independent of the extent to which they currently use the technology in their organizations. While more than half of the executives had adopted telemedicine, even most of the “non-adopters” reported that it is a priority. Ninety-two percent said that HIPAA compliance as well as data and device security are essential for any telemedicine solution.

Telemedicine budget allocations are modest at this time, in most cases less than $250,000, but most executives in the survey anticipate growth up to 25% per year. Most favor buying rather than building telemedicine programs and most prefer single-vendor solutions throughout their organizations. The top three applications of telemedicine today are emergencies (29%), remote home monitoring (21%), and non-emergency cases (20%). Healthcare leaders stated telemedicine has already transformed the standard of care for strokes. The next areas of medicine where the executive think telemedicine will make a major difference are behavioral health, neurology, primary care, and cardiology.

While all indications are that telemedicine is on an aggressive growth path, the surveyed executives also expressed caution in committing budgets due to current high expenditures on electronic health information systems.