Global telehealth market will expand, report claims

By Richard Pizzi
12:00 AM

A report by independent market analyst Datamonitor predicts the home telehealth market will grow at a five-year compound annual growth rate of 56 percent, compared to only 9.9 percent growth in the clinical market.

The Datamonitor report, Telehealth's Increasing Role in Healthcare, expects that the overall global telehealth market will exceed $8 billion by 2012.

The report defines telehealth as the use of a digital network to provide automated monitoring and treatment delivery to a patient who is in a different physical location than the medical expert providing treatment. It refers to simple communications like emails sent between patients and providers to complex procedures like remote robotic surgery. Telehealth also includes video conferencing and home monitoring devices.

Telehealth advocates say that remote monitoring can improve patient outcomes and reduce the number of visits patients need to make to the hospital.

The report claims that a growing, aging population � coupled with a shortage of healthcare providers � is one of the leading drivers of telehealth adoption.

"Despite the benefits of telehealth, the lack of reimbursement for telehealth continues to be the most pressing challenge to widespread adoption," said Christine Chang, healthcare technology analyst with Datamonitor and author of the study. "With no financial incentive for healthcare providers to implement the technology, providers are likely to view telehealth as an increase in workload without a subsequent increase in pay."

The Datamonitor report speculates that while the use of telehealth is currently confined to a relatively small number of patients with a few particular conditions, in the near- to mid-term the adoption of telehealth will expand to greater numbers of patients and more areas of healthcare, leading to an even larger market.

In the long-term, Chang noted, telehealth devices will also be directly available to general consumers, further increasing the scope of the market. She added that successful telehealth solutions will be easily incorporated into clinical workflows and linked to other healthcare technologies like electronic health records.

Datamonitor emphasized that the telehealth market is not "one-size-fits-all." The report notes that patients and providers will likely prefer different telehealth products. It also asserts that the mismatch between available technologies and the day-to-day realities and preferences of end-users needs to be addressed.

"Telehealth is an emerging market with great potential to increase the quality of care, improve the delivery of care and decrease costs," said Chang. "Today's strong customer base will continue to grow as the benefits of telehealth become more apparent. However, the work flow processes and technology need to improve before telehealth adoption becomes more widespread."