Study: Most healthcare execs consider telehealth a priority

By Bill Siwicki
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Hospital executives are increasingly prioritizing telemedicine for delivering care services as the industry shifts from fee-for-service to value-based care. 

Fifty-one percent of the executives and caregivers Reach Health surveyed, in fact, said telemedicine is a high priority and 36 percent ranked it as a medium priority. Only 13 percent responded that telehealth is a low priority today. 

For its report, the “2017 U.S. Telemedicine Industry Benchmark Survey,” Reach Health also asked 436 executives and caregivers which telemedicine projects are already highly successful. More than half ranked improving outcomes, engagement and satisfaction as such, while 26 percent responded that efforts to reduce costs are highly successful and 18 percent said the same about reducing readmissions.

Reach Health identified challenges hospitals face with telehealth programs and found the top five to be Medicare reimbursement, inadequate telemedicine parity laws, Medicaid reimbursement, private payer reimbursement, and a lack of common EHRs in hub-and-spoke hospitals.

When it comes to the approach provider organizations take to telemedicine, 39 percent said it’s an enterprise approach, where telemedicine initiatives are centrally managed across service lines and settings of care. Also, 36 percent said they take a departmental approach, where telemedicine initiatives are started and managed by individual departments. Another 25 percent said they started with a departmental approach and are in the midst of transitioning to an enterprise model. 

And as Congress debates another version of legislation that would repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act, executives shared how that might impact the importance of telemedicine: 33 percent said it would increase the priority of telemedicine, 3 percent said it would decrease, 38 percent stay about the same, and 26 percent cannot predict, the survey found.