Survey Says: Providers, Orgs Value Telehealth

It’s no secret that patient demand for telehealth and mHealth services has grown in recent years, with some patients even factoring the provision of these services into their choice of health care providers. And health care organizations have responded in kind, with survey after survey highlighting organizations’ plans to invest, or continue to do so, in telehealth and mHealth. Now, a new survey is shedding some light on the specific reasons why organizations and providers choose to deploy telehealth and mHealth technologies, and on the (often familiar) ongoing challenges that they face in doing so. As Healthcare IT News first reported, the survey from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and research firm KLAS found continued momentum toward investment in telehealth, as well as common issues that providers and organizations are facing. “Telehealth offers a great opportunity to enhance the lives of patients by making healthcare accessible to them wherever they may be,” Russell P. Branzell, CEO and president of CHIME, said in a statement accompanying the release of the survey results. “But it needs to be carefully implemented to meet its potential and we still face headwinds with reimbursement and integration issues.”

CHIME and KLAS surveyed over 100 health care organizations with existing telehealth programs. They examined the reasons why the organizations had chosen to utilize telehealth; of these, “patient convenience” and increased access to care ranked at the top. Researchers also looked at the ways in which organizations have been using it, identifying three types of telehealth visits: “Scheduled/patient focused” (i.e., those that allow patients to schedule their own virtual visits), “on-demand/consumer focused” (i.e., virtual urgent care visits), and “telespecialty consultations.” Researchers also delved into the challenges organizations face and found, unsurprisingly, that the familiar issue of limited reimbursement was a complicating factor for half of respondents. In addition, “Most said integration between their electronic medical record and virtual care platform vendor was nonexistent or unidirectional.” And yet, despite the ongoing challenges, nearly all of those surveyed told researchers that they planned to expand their telehealth programs. Said KLAS President Adam Gale, “Telehealth holds enormous promise. However, the underlying technology needs to evolve faster. In particular, integration of telehealth with provider EMRs is still at a primitive level. Vendors need to step up in terms of technology and improved support.”

The CHIME/KLAS survey, of course, is only the latest to identify a trend toward increasing investment in telehealth. Last month, a survey from researchers at telehealth software company Reach Health found that a majority of industry respondents—51 percent—considered telehealth to be a “high priority,” with an additional 36 percent classifying it as a medium priority, and a mere 13 percent reporting that they considered it to be a low priority. And as we reported this summer, the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) annual survey of 148 companies found that, for a variety of reasons, large employers are embracing telemedicine, with 96 percent of large companies planning to offer some sort of telemedicine coverage to their employees during the next year. In April, an American Telemedicine Association (ATA) study of 171 health care executives found that an overwhelming 83 percent of health care organizations have plans to invest in telehealth and mHealth in the next year. Finally, in June, the Advisory Board Company’s Virtual Visits Consumer Choice Survey found that 77 percent of people would be willing to have a health care provider visit via telehealth.

Click here to read the Healthcare IT News article on the CHIME/KLAS survey.

Click here to read a press release from CHIME and KLAS on the telehealth survey.

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