Better research required for effective use of telehealth

Telehealth research tends to be overly positive, as it is often based on short-term projects, according to a paper published at Journal of Medical Internet Research, which suggests that future research should study the impact and effective use of telehealth.

"Future research is needed to identify additional factors that promote telehealth acceptance, such as human-technology interaction, organization of the healthcare system and social factors," write members of the Transatlantic Telehealth Research Network.

The authors point to barriers to telehealth for chronic care including reimbursement, the need for extensive care teams to work with patients, effective data management from various devices, the ability to apply predictive analytics and application of data into clinical practice. Efficient business models must emerge if technology-driven healthcare services are to grow.

Telehealth policies among U.S. states, federal agencies, and in European Union countries "are outdated and woefully inadequate to support widespread telehealth adoption and growth," the paper adds.

Cost estimates of telehealth programs in the United States from the Congressional Budget Office focus on short-term financial costs of new legislation rather than potential long-term savings from such programs, the authors say. Meanwhile, European countries have longstanding Health Technology Assessment organizations to make better cost-benefits analyses.

To create a personalized telemedicine program, providers must match their technology and data-management approach to patients' needs. There needs to be greater clarity about who owns the data, patients' access to that data and the legal obligations to protect patient privacy--support of a full and auditable "chain of custody" of the data, according to the authors.

Providers also must address the digital divide among patients, realizing that those who could most benefit from technology solutions might need the most help in using them.

"To demonstrate and realize added value to health outcomes, telehealth implementation is not simply a feature to be added to existing healthcare delivery. It must be integrated into innovation at the system level," the authors say, a finding that echoes that of the Center for Connected Health Policy.

To learn more:
- read the paper