4 reasons telemedicine will trend upward in 2015

Consumers are excited about telehealth and providers have the financial incentive and technology to make it a reality, Skip Fleshman, a partner at Asset Management Ventures, writes at Forbes.

Though the technology has been around for years, Fleshman says it might be the biggest trend in digital health in 2015. Why now?

Among the reasons he cites:

  • Faster Internet connections and better software provide a better video chat experience than in the past
  • With mobile devices, people can consult a doctor from anywhere
  • The adoption of electronic health records makes it easier for doctors to access patient records
  • Patients are comfortable with asynchronous messaging, which can be more time-efficient for doctors

While younger people would seem most likely to use technology for healthcare, Fleshman foresees telehealth having the biggest impact on older populations. They're not technology-averse, he says, and are more likely to have difficulty actually traveling to see a doctor in person.

From the provider's perspective, telemedicine has the potential to save money and make better use of the physician's time. Indeed, a recent study found that telehealth can save $100 or more per visit.

With doctors increasingly being paid for outcomes, they're looking for the most efficient method to provide care. To that end, reimbursement for telemedicine is important. New legislation in the past couple of years has extended reimbursement to veterans and Medicare patients. And New York just became the 22nd state to require parity in reimbursement for telehealth visits.

Fleshman says he sees telehealth not only as an investment opportunity, but believes it will improve the doctor-patient relationship.

Investors pumped a record $6.5 billion into digital health ventures during 2014, an increase of 125 percent from the 2013 level, StartUp Health reported recently.

And telehealth is expected to boost the U.S. market for patient monitoring by about $5 billion by the year 2020, according to a report by iData Research.

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