Telecom services growth fueled by health IT

The U.S. healthcare industry's use of telecommunications services will grow rapidly over the next five years, partly because of its increased reliance on health IT, says a report from the Insight Research Corp. Estimated at $9.1 billion for 2012, the cost of telecom services in healthcare will rise to $14.4 billion in 2017, the report says. That increase represents a compound annual growth rate of 9.7 percent.

The report's key findings:

  • Telecommunications will enable a capacity expansion as healthcare providers are better able to care for patients in remote locations
  • Pervasive wireless and broadband access will enable widespread patient monitoring
  • Healthcare data storage requirements will grow exponentially
  • Digitized healthcare, enabled by interconnected electronic health records, will improve collaboration among care team members.

Aside from the expansion of health IT, the growth of the industry itself will drive telecom utilization, the report says. The researchers predict that the number of provider locations will grow 2.4 percent annually over the forecast period and that healthcare employment will increase 2.5 percent annually.

The changing nature of the technology--especially mobile health--will also play a key role.

"Healthcare transactions will grow exponentially over this forecast period as providers interconnect with one another and as patient communication with their healthcare provider will increasingly rely on telecommunications technologies and networks," the report says. "We expect that bandwidth on those connections will quadruple as data and video replace voice as the primary medium."

It is perhaps no coincidence that AT&T and Verizon, the leading telecoms, are placing big bets on healthcare. AT&T Healthcare Community Online recently made deals with the AMA to take over its Amagine subsidiary and with the Indiana Health Information Exchange.

Verizon is also moving on multiple fronts, ranging from a partnership with Duke University to develop health IT applications, according to InformationWeek, to a recently announced deal with Nantworks to build a Cancer Action Knowledge Network, as MobiHealthNews reported in April.

To learn more:
- read the executive summary of the IRC report
- see the InformationWeek Healthcare article 
- read the MobiHealthNews article

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