Telemedicine programs boosting patient engagement but not ROI, study says

More hospitals ranked telehealth as a priority than did last year, and many reported success at engaging patients and improving outcomes.
By Jack McCarthy
02:40 PM

Telemedicine is changing from a specialty offering to a more mainstream service, with a new study showing that two-thirds of respondents name telemedicine as the top or one of the highest priorities – a 10 percent increase from the 2015 survey results.

But challenges remain, notably reimbursement and earning a return on the investments needed to fund telehealth technologies and programs.

“Telemedicine decision-making is rapidly moving from individual departments and specialties to an enterprise initiative,” said Steve McGraw, CEO of REACH Health, which conducted the study. “Both hospitals and health systems reported significant increases in the average number of telemedicine service lines which are active or being implemented.”

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REACH Health surveyed 390 healthcare executives, physicians, nurses and other professionals, covering a wide variety of telemedicine-related topics such as priorities, program models, management structures and more.

The most common drivers of telemedicine programs are patient-oriented objectives including improving patient outcomes, improving patient convenience and increasing patient engagement.

Sixty-two percent of participants rated improving patient convenience as highly successful, while 36 percent said it was moderately so, and 2 percent declared the effort to be unsuccessful.

The goal of improving patient outcomes, meanwhile, was highly successful at 55 percent of participating sites, moderately at 43 percent and unsuccessful at 2 percent.

Similarly, deploying telemedicine programs to increase patient engagement was highly successful at 44 percent of sites, moderately successful at 53 percent and just 3 percent said the initiative was unsuccessful.

When it comes to achieving a return on the investment, however, just 18 percent of respondents said the work was highly successful and 15 percent called it unsuccessful, though 60 percent rated the telemedicine program as moderately successful.

Patient satisfaction is recognized for driving increased ROI, but the primary motives for improving satisfaction may not be financially driven, the study said.

“Reimbursement, both government and private, poses the primary obstacle to success,” the study said. “Even when effective mitigation of challenges is taken into account, reimbursement continues to present the most formidable obstacle.” 

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