Most healthcare executives plan to invest in telehealth—here's why

If your healthcare organization is planning to invest in telehealth systems and services, you're not alone—a new study finds that 83% of respondents say they are likely or very likely to open their checkbook this year. Only 1% said they were not likely at all to invest in telehealth.

The overwhelming reason: competitive advantage over the competition (98%) and expanded market reach (84%), according to a new American Telemedicine Association survey of 171 healthcare executives.

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Another driver: About 48% of respondents said increasing consumer demand will drive telehealth programs in the next three years.

Telehealth has been a hot area of technology investment for hospitals, health systems and physician practices—although some worry the trend could be headed toward a bubble. Although some states have made it easier for physicians to practice telemedicine and provide broader coverage for patients, much of the country remains stagnant when it comes to regulations that would help expand the practice.

And individual programs have experienced mixed success.

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Respondents ranked the common barriers to a successful telehealth program—reimbursement and licensure—first among their concerns at about 71% and 53%, respectively. A lack of evidence that it improves quality or produces a return on investment came in fourth with 36%.

One surprising finding, given that telehealth is so often touted as the next great thing, is that nearly 50% said resistance to change is a key challenge.

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Working to reduce the burden on physicians could help ease some resistance, however. That’s a top priority of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, for example, which aims to streamline the licensing process that allows doctors to practice in different states.