Is telemedicine here to stay? If you haven't started implementing telemedicine into your practice, are you falling behind? Are patients actually using telemedicine? Does telemedicine really bring the cost-savings its proponents promise?
These are just a few of the questions we sought answers to in our 2015 Telemedicine Trends Whitepaper. We delved into the most recent research and surveys on telemedicine and brought together this report on the latest findings in the field.
Most of what we found confirms what physicians have been hearing: while there are still some barriers to telemedicine (like shifting policy and reimbursement), the overwhelming majority of healthcare systems either already have or are developing telemedicine programs. More than half of all U.S. hospitals currently have telemedicine programs. One survey found about 84% of healthcare executives feel that the development of telemedicine services is either important or very important to their organizations.
Most doctors and patients are warming up to the idea of telemedicine in the age of mobile devices and 24/7 connectivity. Nearly half of healthcare professionals plan to integrate mobile apps into their practices in the next five years. Almost 75% of patients are comfortable communicating with their doctors using technology instead of seeing them in person, and about the same number say they would use telehealth services. Patients are especially interested in using telemedicine as an alternative to an emergency room visit - one survey found only 16% of patients would choose to go to the emergency room for a minor ailment if they also had access to telemedicine services.
On cost-savings, several studies have shown that telemedicine can save both health systems and their patients time and money. However, these studies were often a smaller than ideal sample size, and could benefit a more comprehensive survey. Many commercial payers are currently running telemedicine pilot programs, and will hopefully serve up that data on cost-savings in the next year.
Overall the conclusion seems to be clear - telemedicine in trending up on all fronts. And with more of the medical community coming out in direct support of telemedicine and pushing for standard guidelines, telemedicine is likely to become common practice and an expectation of patients looking for convenient care.