Consumers expected to call for more telehealth services

Growing consumer demand is among the telehealth trends outlined in a Becker's Hospital Review article.

"Consumers have a large preference for telehealth services. Some studies are even showing that there are better outcomes from telehealth than in person," Linda Boles, chief strategist of the U.S. public sector of healthcare innovation and business development at Cisco, told the publication.

She envisions employers even creating their own telehealth services for their employees.

The article also predicts increased government funding and support for telehealth services. That has been borne out with $14 million in USDA grants awarded earlier this month for telehealth services in 29 states and a report showing the World Bank has invested $1.5 billion in telehealth services globally.

Research published recently in Psychiatric Services outlining the remote care being offered to VA patients also supports Boles' prediction. That program has grown from 14,000 sessions with 8,000 VA patients in 2003 to a goal of 200,000 sessions this year.

Author Dr. Linda S. Godleski, director of the VA's national telemental health center and a psychiatrist at Yale University, recently told the American Psychiatric Association that patients tend to choose the remote sessions over face-to-face sessions, which may involve travel and scheduling difficulties.

The research also found better results from the remote sessions: patients were about 24 percent less likely to require hospitalization in the six months after receiving remote care than they were in the six months preceding such care; the number of days such patients were hospitalized decreased by close to 27 percent. Meanwhile, patients who did not switch to remote care showed no difference in their rate of hospitalization, FierceHealthIT reported.

Home telehealth and extended care eVisit systems are among the more promising available technologies for chronic care, according to a new report from NEHI, a health policy research organization that focuses on enabling innovation in healthcare. The value of remote services have been shows in studies of patients with vascular disease, stroke rehab and other other ailments.

Meanwhile, Saint Vincent Health System in Erie, Pa., reports that using telemedicine technology has reduced readmissions in its 26 Pennsylvania facilities, an increasingly important metric with Meaningful Use, with the technology paying for itself within two months, FierceHealthIT recently reported.

And a London study just published at BMJ of 3,230 people with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or heart failure also linked telehealth with lower hospital admissions in the first place, reports the Clinical Advisor.

The Becker's article makes an interesting point that there's a difference between the term telemedicine, which connects rural and city physicians, and telehealth, which involves patients. The two are often used interchangeably.

To learn more:
- here the Becker's Hospital Review article
- read the Clinical Advisor article

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