A new survey from Reach Health unearthed the pros and cons of making use of a telehealth program. Approximately 436 healthcare professionals, executives, nurses and physicians took part in the survey, which was conducted in December 2016 and January 2017. Four percent of total participants were customers of Reach Health, a telemedicine software company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Nearly one-quarter of respondents (21 percent) indicated telemedicine is one of their organization’s top priorities. Thirty percent said it’s a high priority, and 36 percent said it’s a medium priority. Only 13 percent consider telehealth a low priority at their organization.
Despite the majority of participants agreeing about it being a key issue, they expressed a variety of different reasons for implementing a telemedicine program.
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 objectives included reducing emergency department overcrowding, increasing revenue and supporting research or clinical trials.
The majority of participants (59 percent) said their organization’s telehealth platform is primarily provided by a vendor. Forty-three percent noted their platform is primarily assembled internally using specialized components.
Regardless of which side of the build vs. buy debate they’re on, participants seemed to value a number of similar features in a telemedicine platform.
A few of the most crucial features are integrated audio and video for live patient engagement; the ability to produce documentation from each encounter; support for standard services; and the ability for clinicians to communicate through HIPAA-compliant messaging.
But the journey to a successful telemedicine program isn’t a piece of cake. 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 said determining ROI, physician compensation and lack of EHR integration are problems.
Looking ahead, participants were asked how they expect a potential repeal or replacement of the Affordable Care Act to impact their telehealth programs.
Thirty-three percent said such an action would increase the significance of telemedicine in their organization, and only 3 percent noted it would decrease how much of a priority telemedicine is. Another 38 percent felt the importance of telehealth would stay about the same, and 26 percent said they can’t predict how it will change.