Each year, REACH Health publishes an industry benchmark survey that provides great insight into what telemedicine industry leaders are thinking. Its most recently published survey is no different. The 2018 survey was conducted among healthcare executives, physicians, and other professionals during December 2017 and January 2018. Survey participants spanned the industry with almost half representing health systems and hospitals. Here are some takeaways from the survey:
- 70 percent of respondents view telemedicine as a top or high priority.
- About half are taking an enterprise approach to telemedicine, a significant increase from last year’s survey.
- A majority of organizations plan to increase or maintain investments in telemedicine.
- Improving patient outcomes and providing access to rural patients were the two top objectives for telemedicine programs cited by respondents.
- 60 percent view the designation of a full-time dedicated program manager as a key to success of a telemedicine program.
- Improved patient satisfaction was the most cited contributor to ROI, consistent with the past few surveys.
- Facility settings that require more specialized treatment tended to have more mature telemedicine programs. Related to that, certain specialties such as stroke, behavioral health, radiology, and neurology, have more mature telemedicine programs.
- Integrated audio/video for live engagement was the technology feature considered the most valuable to an organization with over 90 percent of respondents agreeing.
The survey also looked at program challenges. Among the top barriers:
- Inadequate telemedicine parity laws with less than 20 percent viewing current parity laws as adequate.
- Lack of both public and private payer reimbursement for telemedicine.
- Lack of common EHR in hub and spoke hospitals and lack of integration with current EHR.
A surprise to me was that physician and patient acceptance, and lack of executive support were cited least among the program challenges. Anecdotally, I often hear these reasons cited as significant concerns for some telemedicine stakeholders in implementing successful programs, but the survey dispels that notion.
Ultimately, I believe the survey is a must-read for any stakeholder looking into how healthcare organizations are implementing their telemedicine programs, the keys to successful implementation, and the challenges they may face. The current survey builds upon trends seen in previous surveys and continues to offer fresh insight and hope into a quickly maturing healthcare sector. Unfortunately, many of the same obstacles consistently appear in each annual survey—namely issues related to reimbursement. Until progress is made on that front, we will continue to see haphazard progress in the further deployment of telemedicine.