Despite wider acceptance, barriers to robotic telemedicine remain

Regulatory and financial barriers continue to hinder adoption of robotic telemedicine in emergency and critical care medicine, according to a new study in the January/February edition of Telemedicine and e-Health. But cultural and technical barriers seem to be abating.

The study's authors asked respondents about seven different topics related to barriers to implementing telemedicine. "Respondents proclaimed that [robotic telemedicine's] success was still hampered by licensing, credentialing, and malpractice protection, as well as costs, billing, and reimbursement issues," according to the report.

For example, 61 percent agreed or strongly agreed that inability to bill services rendered was a barrier to implementation of RTM, according to a CMIO magazine story. Sixty-one percent agreed or strongly agreed that out-of-state licensing was a barrier to implementation and 73.3 percent agreed or strongly agreed that government reimbursement was a barrier to implementation.

"The majority of all respondents indicated that cultural issues did not constitute meaningful hurdles, technological matters were generally favorable, and that most personnel were agreeable to both achieving the buy-in to start a [telemedicine] program and to maintaining [it] once started," the report's authors wrote.

More evidence that users are buying into telemedicine programs: Respondents listed providing clinical support (84 percent), maintaining patient satisfaction (80 percent), achieving immediate patient access (69.5 percent), overcoming service gaps (60 percent) and improving quality (59 percent), and as "significant motives" for implementing telemedicine programs.

In order to overcome barriers and improve adoption, the authors recommended more flexible credentialing and interstate licensing regulations, as well as payment models for telemedicine.  

About 43 percent agreed or strongly agreed that robotic telemendicine's success is hampered by both a lack of understanding and a lack of exposure. To that end, the authors recommended more telemedicine training and education for physicians that includes information about the benefits of telemedicine, including safety, efficacy and improved outcomes.

To learn more:
- read the study (purchase required)
- read the CMIO article

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