Telehealth Services Continuing to Gain Traction, Albeit Slowly, Research Finds

Jan. 23, 2018
Telehealth services continue to gain traction in medical group practices, though at a slow pace, according to a new MGMA Stat poll.

Telehealth services continue to gain traction in medical group practices, though at a slow pace, according to a new MGMA Stat poll.

The Colorado-based Medical Group Management Association conducted a Jan. 10 poll with nearly 1,300 respondents. Twenty-six percent of those polled said their organizations offer telehealth services, while another 15 percent said they plan to offer them in the future. This reveals a 3-percent shift among practice leaders who have or are considering telehealth services compared to a January 2017 MGMA Stat poll, in which 23 percent of respondents said they offer telehealth and 18 percent responded that they were planning to add such services.

Conversely, in the 2018 MGMA Stat poll, 39 percent of respondents said that they don’t offer telehealth services, while 20 percent are unsure if they will, mirroring the same percentages of the 2017 poll.

Although the reasons for not offering telehealth services varied, physician buy-in, lack of need for it in their specialty and insurance reimbursement concerns were the most frequent responses. Additionally, some respondents said they were still researching telehealth to determine whether the services fit their practice, according to the data.

MGMA researchers noted that while implementation at the practice level has been slow, patients have expressed interest in using telehealth service. A 2017 study conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of American Well found that an estimated 50 million U.S. consumers would be open to switching primary care providers if they were given access to video visits, an increase of 33 million over the past two years.

Another recent survey on telehealth from Hackensack, N.J.-based Vidyo, Inc., found that 75 percent of healthcare delivery organization (HDO) respondents either are operating or are planning to launch telehealth services in the year to come.

These survey findings were collected in a new eBook surveying more than 300 clinical and IT professionals responsible for healthcare and technology investments across the country. Telehealth ranked as one of the top four IT investment priorities for HDOs and two-thirds of respondents said they plan to spend 20 percent or more of their technology budget on telemedicine solutions, according to the findings.

Respondents in the Vidyo survey cited improved patient outcomes and cost prevention as key drivers of telehealth adoption. More than 60 percent of those surveyed reported better-than-expected results from current telehealth solutions, noting improvements in efficiency, timeliness of care, ROI, and patient health. Satisfaction scores soared for video-enabled solutions, hitting 83 percent for virtual visits, 84 percent for acute care management, and 90 percent for chronic health support.