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Enterprise Telemedicine Strategies Gaining Steam, Survey Finds

March 20, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Healthcare providers are increasingly leveraging a centrally-managed (enterprise) approach to telemedicine, according to the results of the REACH Health 2018 U.S. Telemedicine Industry Benchmark survey.

Indeed, 48 percent of respondents indicated they use an enterprise approach, up from 39 percent in the 2017 survey. This finding also corresponded with a significant drop in telemedicine initiatives managed by individual departments, from 36 percent last year to 26 percent this year, according to the survey, which included more than 400 healthcare executives, physicians, nurses and other professionals.

"Not only are enterprise telemedicine programs becoming more common – they are markedly more successful," Steve McGraw, president and CEO of REACH Health, said in a statement. "When we correlated these approaches with participants' achievements, we found that organizations taking an enterprise approach are 30 percent more likely to be highly successful than organizations with a departmental approach."

Some of the survey’s other key findings include:

  • Telemedicine is still focused on patients. The top four objectives of respondents' telemedicine programs are patient-focused, a trend observed since this survey's inception in 2015. These objectives were all selected by at least two-thirds of participants.
  • Both clinics and behavioral health show dynamic growth. In the 2015 survey, care settings such as clinics and specialties such as behavioral health exhibited significant telemedicine opportunities, with many providers in the planning stage. The 2018 results show both are achieving their potential, with clinics exhibiting 37 percent growth and behavioral health exhibiting 40 percent growth in active telemedicine programs.
  • Regulatory uncertainty is not slowing momentum. Despite regulatory uncertainty, more than 80 percent of respondents expect their internal adoption and use of telemedicine to increase or stay about the same, while more than 75 percent expect investment in telemedicine to increase or stay the same.
  • Top challenges are reimbursement-related. The survey ranked the top 20 challenges for telemedicine programs. Inadequate parity laws topped the list of unaddressed challenges for telemedicine programs, identified by 40 percent of survey respondents. An additional 37 percent said this challenge was only partially addressed. Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement were second and fourth on the list.
  • Electronic medical records (EMRs) are frequently inadequate for telemedicine. Most participants indicated their telemedicine platform is not integrated with their EMR system.  For those using their EMR as their telemedicine platform, nearly half are documenting in the EMR after remote consultations have ended, and more than one-third said their EMR does not enable them to adequately analyze telemedicine-specific metrics. Additionally, two of the top five telemedicine program challenges were EMR-related.

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