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EMR Integration, Reimbursement Holding Back Telehealth, Report Finds

June 18, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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According to a new report from the Orem, Utah-based KLAS Research, integration with electronic medical record (EMR) systems is one of the biggest barriers to telehealth adoption in a provider setting.

Even as providers increasingly use and invest in telehealth solutions, no single electronic medical record (EMR) vendor has established itself in a leader in the space, the report found.

Authors of the report said that the leaders in telehealth are focused vendors Cisco (San Jose) and Polycom (San Jose), with products that were used across a variety of disciplines. Meanwhile, a CIO interviewed for the report told KLAS that EMR vendors have too many other priorities to be focused on telehealth. The 121 providers surveyed that used Epic’s EMR (Verona, Wisc.) rated it as the vendor with the most focus on telehealth, Cerner (Kansas City) was second.

Other barriers to adoption, according to the report’s authors, were strategy, return on investment (ROI), and funding. One provider told KLAS that telehealth could be a lot more successful if the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) made it a billable consult. Most providers surveyed paid for telehealth through their own operating budget.

Despite these barriers, the overall outlook for telehealth was fairly positive, according to the report’s authors. Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed were using telehealth for at least one of the five disciplines: home monitoring, psychiatry, stroke, neurology, and ICU.  Of those currently using telehealth, 85 percent reported satisfaction with results and 81 percent are planning on future investment.

"Not only are providers adopting telehealth services at an increasing rate, but 81 percent of interviewed providers told us that they will be making future investments," report author Erik Bermudez said in a statement. "They feel that telehealth is one of the keys to cost-effectively caring for the growing population in the face of population health and accountable care. This report looks into how they intend to make that happen."

Once payers can come up with better reimbursement methods and the systems are better integrated into the EMR, the surveyed participants say “the floodgates to telehealth adoption will open.”

The telehealth market has already grown significantly. A recent report from the New York City-based research firm, Kalorama Information, indicated that telehealth market has grown 237 percent in five years, from 2007 to last year.

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