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Telehealth is credited with facilitating a wide range of improvements for both patients and hospitals alike. From lowering patient costs to reducing readmission rates and expanding basic healthcare accessibility for rural residents, the impacts of telehealth are proving to be far-reaching.
A recent study found that patients who accessed telehealth services had a 31-percent reduction in all-cause hospital readmission rates and reported lower depression and anxiety levels.
With figures like that, there’s no wonder why we have seen the market surge in recent years. Definitive Healthcare recently surveyed providers on inpatient telehealth usage and found that, from 2014 to 2019, reported adoption of telehealth solutions/services jumped from roughly 54-percent up to 85-percent.
Figure 1: Current telehealth utilization rates from survey respondents, 2019 Inpatient Telehealth Study, Definitive Healthcare
Looking forward, we expect to see telehealth’s footprint continue to expand. In the same study, 40-percent of respondents planned to invest in telehealth solutions or services in the next 24 months. This number is up from 26-percent in 2016.
The increase in adoption signifies a clear trend that healthcare providers are aiming to incorporate telehealth solutions/services to continue to facilitate patient care, enhance communication with clinical colleagues, and increase the accessibility of care for patients.
So, what about the respondents who are not planning on implementing telehealth solutions?
While 40-percent of respondents indicated that they are planning on investing in the near future, 42.8-percent responded that they were unsure and 17.1-percent indicated that they have no plans to invest.
Figure 2: Plans for future telehealth implementation from survey respondents, 2019 Inpatient Telehealth Study, Definitive Healthcare
According to the survey, the reasons for not utilizing or investing in telehealth solutions varied. Let's take a look at the top three most common barriers:
According to the study, funding remains the top barrier. Of the respondents whose practices do not currently utilize or have plans to invest in telehealth solutions/services, 37.5-percent claimed lack of funding as their number one barrier. This is consistent with previous findings as providers continue to consider a large financial investment that may only apply to a fraction of their patients.
As the adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s exactly how 18.7-percent of the respondents felt when they stated they were satisfied with the tools they currently use to address their healthcare needs. Telehealth services/solutions aren’t top of mind for these providers. This could be for several reasons including a high burden of proof and efficacy for new technology and looming physician shortages putting a strain on time to consider new options.
Implementing a new system can be both time consuming and expensive. For 18.7% of respondents, this rings all too true with competing priorities taking precedence over telehealth implementation. Along with HIPAA concerns, credentialing for physicians, and ensuring reimbursements are running smoothly, telehealth implementation can require a substantial time commitment on the provider end. These providers are choosing to focus on clinical priorities outside of telehealth.
Rounding out the reasons for choosing not to invest in telehealth: 12.5-percent of respondents were unsure and 6.2-percent said reimbursement is too uncertain at this point to make an investment.
The market for telehealth was valued at $29.6 billion in 2017 with clear indications of continued growth. With patient demand for telehealth at 84%, it will be crucial to keep track of both the benefits and barriers for providers as the market continues to evolve.
Looking for more information on inpatient and outpatient telehealth installations? Definitive Healthcare's Technology Insights platform can help track and benchmark the growing market.
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How will telemedicine evolve in the near future? What are adoption trends among hospitals and physician practices? In our upcoming webinar, Best Practices with Telehealth: Where to Invest and What to Avoid, Jim Abreau, Major Account Executive, delivers his insight into the practical applications of telehealth.