Global telemedicine market forecast: 18.5% growth rate through 2018

The shortage of physicians in rural areas combined with continuous development of telecommunications capabilities are a boon to the market for telemedicine services, according to a new report from Research and Markets.

The global telemedicine market, which stood at $14.2 billion in 2012, will have a compound annual growth rate of 18.5 percent through 2018, according to the report.

"This widespread deployment of services will continue at a rapid pace for the foreseeable future. The increase in telemedicine applications are increasing due to the high prevalence of chronic diseases, consistent need for improved quality services and rising elderly population across countries which demand telemedicine to deliver improved products with higher patient satisfaction," the market research firm said in an announcement.

It noted that legislation aimed at improving Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for telemedicine services would help drive growth, and that USDA funding for telehealth programs will help.

A bill introduced in the House in November would expand telehealth reimbursement for members of the military and veterans.

Telehealth isn't just about the patient and treatment, but knowledge about the equipment is vital as well, Leigh Ann Chandler Poole, M.D., a nurse practitioner at the University of Alabama, explained at the 2013 mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C., last week. She explained how university's nursing program includes that as part of its curricula.

At the conference, Federal Communications Committee Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn discussed the agency's efforts to improve broadband access in rural areas--a key to telehealth efforts.

"Broadband connectivity is central to patient centeredness. It's a component of quality healthcare," Clyburn said. She added that the agency is "laser-focused" on providing more spectrum to mobile networks, which she called the "lifeblood" to mobile healthcare.

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