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All Things HIT

Feb 10 2013   6:14PM GMT

WSJ and InMedica reports: Telehealth on the rise

Posted by: AllinHIT
e-visits, MBANS, Remote patient monitoring, Telehealth, Uncategorized

I have often reported on telehealth and remote monitoring – both their growth, and, most of all, why they should be embraced (rural health/access to care) in the health care industry.  My last article on telehealth discussed how the formation of MBANS will positively affect telehealth growth and investment.  Now, after reviewing the high points of a recent study by InMedica, the encouraging news from some payers about future programs and initiatives  and hospitals using remote patient monitoring to avoid penalties from CMS for re-admissions, I am even more excited about the future of telehealth!

The InMedica report states that telehealth will grow six-fold by 2017.  Noting that this report is defining telehealth only as remote-patient-monitoring (RPM), I agree with the report.  However, I believe the pace will be much slower for other telehealth functions, such as e-visits.  Regardless,  the report predicts 1.8 million patients worldwide will receive RPM, compared with just 308,000 patients that received these services in 2012, of which 220,000 were from the US.  Yes, the US is leading the way in telehealth. I expect this to continue!

You can look at various factors for telehealth adoption, in addition to the formation of MBANS, as I’ve written previously.  First, with the introduction of Obamacare, payers will be looking for ways to cut costs, while providing services to a new population of patients.  As reported by the Wall Street Journal recently, Wellpoint plans to offer e-visits for all patients using webcams, tablets, and smartphones.  Secondly, this is driven by large employers wanting to cut their own healthcare costs, and increase employee/patient compliance.  Companies like Home Depot and Westinghouse are including telehealth in their employee health plans. As pointed out in the WSJ article, 39% of large employers are also considering similar benefits. Forcing payers like UnitedHealth and Aetna to offer these services to a limited number of employers.  Third, telehealth will help ease the shortage of primary care physicians.  Telehealth is perfect for minor conditions like colds, sinus and ear infections, and other non-acute events.  Lastly, I believe as EHR adoption increases, it will provide a platform for telehealth services.  EHR vendors, themselves, will start introducing telehealth services as add-on modules.  As physicians and hospitals increase their comfort level with technology (i.e. their EHR), so will they with telehealth.

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