Report: Telehealth Adoption Still Lagging, but Healthcare Execs See the Value

Feb. 12, 2018
More than half of healthcare executives said in a recent survey that they have already implemented telemedicine in their organization, but budgets supporting such initiatives are still modest.

More than half of healthcare executives said in a recent survey that they have already implemented telemedicine in their organization, but budgets supporting such initiatives are still modest.

This latest telemedicine research comes from Sage Growth Partners (SGP), a Baltimore-based healthcare research, strategy, and marketing firm. SGP’s report, “Defining Telemedicine's Role: The View From the C-Suite,” details findings from its survey of nearly 100 healthcare executives alongside additional quantitative and qualitative research.

Key survey findings include:

 More than half have adopted telemedicine; most non-adopters see it as a priority

  • Fifty-six percent have already implemented telemedicine in their organization; 27 percent have built or are building their own solution, while 29 percent are already working with one or more vendors.
  • Forty-four percent have not yet adopted telemedicine; 24 percent are actively seeking telemedicine solutions, while 20 percent are just beginning to learn about what is out there.
  • Of those who have not yet adopted telemedicine, 86 percent say it is a medium to high priority.

What’s more, the research revealed that telemedicine budgets are modest but growing. Of those who have telemedicine solutions in their facilities today: two-thirds (66 percent) have telemedicine budgets of $250,000 or less, while a quarter (25 percent) have budgets of $250,000-$1 million. Only nine percent have budgets of more than $1 million. Nearly three-quarters of respondents expect their telemedicine budget to increase next year; 59 percent expect it to increase by up to 25 percent, and 14 percent expect it to increase by more than 25 percent. Meanwhile, 26 percent of respondents expect their budget to stay the same, and only two percent expect it to decrease.

Furthermore, mobile apps and outpatient care are the “next frontier for telemedicine use,” according to the survey. The number-one setting for telemedicine use today is for emergency cases in the hospital (29 percent), followed by remote patient home monitoring (21 percent), and non-emergency hospital cases (20 percent). Though only four percent currently use telemedicine for post-acute specialty care, the large majority (75 percent) are interested in applying a telemedicine solution there in the future. And, using telemedicine in outpatient clinics (69 percent) and for virtual primary care on the patient’s mobile device (68 percent) come in second and third on respondents’ wish lists.

Additionally, three-quarters (75 percent) of respondents said they believe telemedicine has the potential to transform the standard of care for behavioral health/psychiatry, and approximately half believe it will transform care in neurology (53 percent), primary care (52 percent), and cardiology (48 percent). Seventy percent believe that telemedicine has already transformed the standard of care for stroke.

When asked if telemedicine could replace or supplement current care delivery methods, just nine percent of respondents believe that a quarter or more of their patient encounters will be virtual in three years. Thirty-seven percent believe up to five percent of encounters will be virtual, while almost a third (30 percent) expect telemedicine to make up between 5 to 15 percent of encounters. To this end, the vast majority (79 percent) believe telemedicine will contribute to less than 15 percent of their total revenue in three years.

“There has been an incredible amount of hype around telemedicine,” Dan D’Orazio, SGP CEO, said in a statement that accompanied the survey results…Reimbursement and regulatory issues have been a huge factor in slowing the adoption of telemedicine, but a lot can change, and quickly—having CMS increase its reimbursement for telehealth would significantly accelerate its implementation. The value that telemedicine can deliver is clear to healthcare executives, but they must see a return on investment before they will increase their investments from modest to meaningful.”

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