Telehealth in growth mode worldwide

Projected to reach 1.8 million patients by 2017

As healthcare providers seek to reduce readmission rates and track disease progression, telehealth is projected to reach 1.8 million patients worldwide by 2017, according to The World Market for Telehealth – An Analysis of Demand Dynamics – 2012, a new report from global research firm INMedica, part of IMS research.

In 2012 it was estimated there were some 308,000 patients remotely monitored by their healthcare provider for congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, hypertension and mental health conditions worldwide, the majority of them post-acute patients who had been hospitalized and discharged, according to the report.

In addition to post-acute patients, telehealth is also used to monitor ambulatory patients – those who have been diagnosed with a disease at an ambulatory care facility but have not been hospitalized. However, telehealth has a much larger penetration in post-acute care as compared to ambulatory care patients, the report notes, as the majority of patients are only considered for home monitoring following hospital discharge to prevent readmission. In the U.S., for example, an estimated 140,000 post-acute patients were monitored by telehealth in 2012, as compared with 80,000 ambulatory patients.

Figure 1. World Telehealth Patients (thousands) By Disease

“A major challenge for telehealth is for it to reach the wider population of ambulatory care patients," said Theo Ahadome, senior analyst at InMedica, in a news release. "However, the clinical and economic outcomes for telehealth are more established for post-acute care patients. Indeed, even for post-acute care patients, telehealth is usually prescribed only in the most severe cases, and where patients have been hospitalized more than once in a year."