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More than 50% healthcare professionals believe telehealth is big priority

Improving patient outcomes, increasing patient engagement and satisfaction and improving patient convenience. These are among the among the most common telemedicine program objectives, according to a new survey from telemedicine company Reach Health. The survey looks at the pros and cons of telehealth programs.

Nearly one-quarter of healthcare professionals  (21 percent) indicated telemedicine is one of their organization’s top priorities, the survey shows. Thirty percent say it’s a high priority. Another 36 percent said it’s a medium priority. Only 13 percent consider telehealth a low priority with their organization.

Despite the majority of participants agreeing about telehealth being a key issue, the reasons behind implementing a telemedicine program vary a great deal. According to the survey, the ten most common telemedicine program objectives are:

•    Improving patient outcomes
•    Increasing patient engagement and satisfaction
•    Improving patient convenience
•    Providing remote and rural patients with access to care
•    Improving leverage of limited physician resources
•    Reducing cost of care delivery
•    Reducing hospital readmissions
•    Improving specialist efficiency
•    Providing access to new specialties
•    Providing 24/7 access to specialists

Other, lower ranking objectives include the reduction of emergency department overcrowding, increasing revenue and supporting research or clinical trials.

Crucial elements in telehealth

59 percent of all participants believe their organization’s telehealth platform is primarily provided by a vendor. 43 percent say their platform is primarily assembled internally using specialized components. In all cases, the survey  participants seemed to value a number of similar features in a telemedicine platform. Some of the most crucial elements are:

•    Integrated audio and video for live patient engagement;
•    The ability to produce documentation from each encounter;
•    Support for standard services;
•    The ability for clinicians to communicate through HIPAA-compliant messaging.

Implementation not easy

Implementing a successful telemedicine program is not easy. Respondents also addressed the difficulties they face. Top challenges include reimbursement (from Medicare, Medicaid and private payers) and inadequate telemedicine parity laws. Survey participants also state that determining ROI, physician compensation and lack of EHR integration are problems.

Impact of repeal ACA

Looking ahead, participants were asked how they expect a potential repeal or replacement of the Affordable Care Act to impact their telehealth programs. In this respect, 33 percent said such an action would increase the significance of telemedicine in their organization, with only 3 percent saying it would decrease how much of a priority telemedicine is. Another 38 percent believes the importance of telehealth will not change, while 26 percent said they can’t predict how it will change.

Some 436 healthcare professionals, executives, nurses and physicians took part in the survey, which was conducted in December 2016 and January 2017 – 12 percent more than in the same survey a year earlier. Four percent of total participants were customers of Reach Health, a telemedicine software company based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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