As the telemedicine industry continues to mature, U.S. hospitals are increasingly using a centrally-managed enterprise approach, according to the results from the REACH Health 2017 U.S. Telemedicine Industry Benchmark Survey.
The survey from REACH, the Alpharetta, Ga.-based telemedicine solutions company, included 436 healthcare executives, physicians, nurses and other professionals. It found that 40 percent of hospital respondents indicated their telemedicine initiatives are centrally managed (enterprise approach), and almost half of the others that began with a departmental approach are now transitioning to an enterprise model.
“Last year, we observed significant increases in the number of telemedicine service lines being implemented in U.S. hospitals, and this year’s survey confirmed the shift to the use of enterprise telemedicine platforms,” Steve McGraw, president and CEO of REACH Health, said in a statement.
The move to enterprise telemedicine is also reflected in additional survey findings. Survey respondents identified telemedicine platform features that are most valuable to their organizations. Three of the top six platform features are related to telemedicine data and analytics: clinical documentation, ability to send documentation to/from the EMR (electronic medical record), and ability to analyze consult data. All of these were rated as critical or valuable by nearly 80 percent of respondents.
What’s more, similar to 2016 findings, issues stemming from reimbursement and EMR systems pose the top impediments to telemedicine, accounting for six of the top seven challenges. Reimbursement, both government and private, poses the primary obstacle to success. Even when effective mitigation of challenges is taken into account, reimbursement continues to present the most formidable obstacles.
Persistent challenges related to EMR systems were also widely noted in the survey. These include the lack of integration between telemedicine and EMR systems and lack of native telemedicine capabilities in EMR systems. Also noted were challenges posed by the use of multiple EMR systems in heterogeneous telemedicine networks.
“We saw a high degree of value placed on platform features related to data and analytics, EMR integration and support for off-the-shelf endpoints such as laptops and tablets. These features and capabilities tend to have a greater impact on the organization as a whole more than individual departments because they are integral to maximizing the value of investments in equipment and software,” said McGraw. “Conversely, features that tend to have more of an impact on individual departments, such as support for proprietary devices, are less frequently noted as critical or valuable.”
Also the second year in a row in the survey, the top three telemedicine objectives were all patient-oriented: improving patient outcomes, improving patient convenience and increasing patient engagement. Survey respondents also identified their primary contributors to return on investment (ROI) for their telemedicine programs. The most frequently cited ROI driver was improved patient satisfaction, which ranked above all forms of government and private payer reimbursement.