Telemedicine a high 2015 priority for healthcare execs

Telemedicine is maturing from a specialty service into a mainstream form of healthcare, according to REACH Health's first annual telemedicine survey.

The report examined input from 233 professionals working in the health industry on their challenges, objectives and priorities.

Key findings, according to an executive summary, include:

  • About 60 percent of respondents listed telemedicine as a high priority in 2015
  • Telemedicine programs in "lower acuity settings" are sparse, but there is planning and preparation in place to add the service
  • The biggest obstacle to using the tool is reimbursement
  • Improved care is the primary reason for using telemedicine, not to save costs

In addition, "the priority of a telemedicine program ... exhibits a strong correlation with success," according to the report. The full report will be released in May at the American Telemedicine Association's annual conference in Los Angeles.

"Our first annual telemedicine industry survey exposed a variety of interesting findings, some anticipated and many that are surprising," Steve McGraw, president and CEO of REACH Health, said in an announcement. "One interesting result that emerged: the degree of focus of the telemedicine program manager had a stronger correlation with success than did executive support or adequacy of funding."

However, apart from reimbursement, telemedicine still faces hurdles in states throughout the U.S. as medical boards and state Senates debate the practice. Last week the Texas Medical Board ruled doctors must have a "defined" relationship with the patient, not just an online visit, before they may order prescriptions for them.

But patients increasingly are acknowledging the benefits of the technology. Seventy-five percent of patients who have not used telemedicine are at least "moderately interested" in it, according to an online poll conducted and funded by Software Advice published in January.

To learn more:
- here's the executive summary (.pdf)
- read the announcement