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Telemedicine gaining acceptance

Telemedicine is moving steadily from the margins of healthcare to the mainstream, according to a new industry survey.

Nearly two-thirds of the 390 clinicians and healthcare executives who participated in the 2016 Telemedicine Industry Benchmark Survey by telemedicine software vendor REACH Health, Inc. cited telemedicine as their top or one of the highest priorities for their organizations. That’s a 10% increase over last year’s inaugural survey.

Other key findings:

  • The three most common goals for telemedicine programs are improving patient outcomes; convenience and satisfaction.
  • While ROI ranks in the bottom third of telemedicine objectives (suggesting that while more and more popular, telemedicine is still relatively expensive), improving patient satisfaction is the top ROI driver for telemedicine.
  • Reimbursement and EHR integration are the top challenges for telemedicine. Also, respondents listed lack of native telemedicine capabilities in EHRs and the use of multiple EHR systems in heterogeneous telemedicine environments as problematic.
  • Telemedicine systems are generally more advanced in medical specialties than in general medicine practices.

The report that accompanied the survey, conducted in November and December 2015, attributed the increasing popularity of telemedicine and its migration into the mainstream in part to increases in aging and unhealthy populations combined with a worsening shortage of specialist physicians.

The report also noted that telemedicine was cited as a top or high priority fairly evenly in acute, specialty, community-based and chronic care settings.

The top 10 telemedicine medical specialty applications, in order of popularity, are:

  1. Stroke
  2. Neurology
  3. Psychiatry-behavioral health
  4. Emergency medicine
  5. Radiology
  6. Pediatrics
  7. Cardiology
  8. ICU
  9. Chronic disease management
  10. Oncology