Telemedicine Set for a Boom; Barriers to Adoption Emerge

Telemedicine, defined by one study as video consultations with physicians, is poised to experience significant growth between now and 2018, according to a Parks Associates report.

The consultancy’s data projects that the number of households using video consultations will grow from 900,000 in 2013 to 22.6 million in 2018. Estimated revenue from this boom is expected to jump from under $100 million in 2013 to $13.7 billion in 2018. Still, patients overwhelmingly prefer face-to-face visits with clinicians over telephone or video consultations, according to Parks Associates research.

A major driver of telemedicine’s projected growth, the researchers reported, is that “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program requirements will push providers to offer telemedicine services. This means that health information management professionals must be ready and willing to step in and make sure physician-patient encounters comply with meaningful use requirements, and that they are documented properly in patient records.


Barriers to Telemedicine

Ease of use issues with telemedicine technologies will continue to be barriers to adoption for both patients and healthcare professionals, researchers warn. The Parks Associates report emphasizes that the technology should be easy to use for both the patient, the clinician, and the technical support team members.

A British study, published recently in BMC Health Services Research, found that implementing telemedicine services can be disruptive to clinical staff unless technical staff provide proper support.

“The study highlights that introducing and implementing a telehealth service that is to be integrated into mainstream bring many changes to the clinical routines of the user, interaction with patients and expertise of the user, all of which can be experienced as threatening,” the authors wrote. “If adequate steps are not taken and the concerns of users are not addressed in a timely manner, results can be detrimental to service integration,” the authors wrote.

Regulation of telemedicine presents its own set of issues as well. The Federation of State Medical Boards is looking at a proposed policy that would require physicians to be licensed in the same states as their patients in order to provide services. However, Congress has considered legislation that would allow physicians to provide telemedicine services across state lines.

The attributes of telemedicine, traditionally utilized in rural and underserved communities, are apparent in a recent 60 Minutes segment about uninsured individuals living in Appalachia. Watch here.


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