HIMSS Analytics: Most providers adopt telemedicine to close patient-care gaps

Provider adoption of telemedicine solutions is largely driven by the need to fill gaps in patient care, particularly among hospitals, according to HIMSS Analytics' 2014 Telemedicine Study, published on Wednesday.

Of 335 hospital or health system respondents to the Web-based survey--conducted from April 22 to May 2 of this year--42.5 percent said their primary motivation behind investing in telemedicine tools was filling in gaps. Close to 16 percent of such respondents cited the removal of barriers to patient care as their main reason for adoption.

More specifically, 44.3 percent of hospital respondents cited patient care gaps due to community remoteness.

The survey received a total of 406 responses out of 15,134 invited participants. Close to 55 percent of respondents said they had implemented a telemedicine solution at their facility; 17.7 percent, however, were unsure.

"The differences between what people consider telemedicine or not is that point around delivering healthcare services and clinical information," HIMSS Analytics Research Director Brendan FitzGerald told FierceHealthIT. "Because of the ever-evolving technology aspects and being able to deliver that clinical care remotely, that's where our definition of telemedicine is key and may cause some confusion in the market."

For the purposes of the survey, FitzGerald said HIMSS defined telemedicine as "the transfer of medical information via telecommunication technology or specifically designed medical devices for the purpose of delivering healthcare services and clinical information."

The ability to provide round-the-clock care (19.2 percent) and the ability to provide remote consultations to patients (18.4 percent) were listed by respondents as the top benefits of telemedicine. Those were followed by the ability to access outside specialty care (16.3 percent) and reductions in hospital readmissions (8.2 percent).

The survey also examined telemedicine integration with electronic health record systems. Medication management technologies (88.1 percent) and patient portal telemedicine services (76.3 percent) were the most integrated, according to respondents, while video-conferencing technologies (4.5 percent) were the least integrated.

According to FitzGerald, workflow played a major role in such decisions.

"I think it's just a matter of where these technologies lie in their adoption and with the practical uses and everyday workflow for managing care," FitzGerald said. "So where something like scheduling or medication management would be seen as essential, something like two-way video webcam may not be."  

According to a recent survey by the American Telemedicine Association, about 47 percent of providers surveyed said they currently provide online services and 72 percent said they are considering implementing the services soon.

To learn more:
- here's the introduction and study methodology (.pdf)