Telemedicine produces 'positive results,' but more research needed on primary care effectiveness

Telemedicine is helpful for communication, counseling and monitoring and managing chronic disease, according to a draft technical brief from the Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) created for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The brief is based on information from 44 systematic reviews and interviews with key stakeholders in the industry. The EPC found that much of the research determined telehealth interventions produced "positive results." The majority examined using telemedicine for chronic disease management and psychotherapy as part of behavioral health.

The EPC also found that:

  • 32 percent of the time, telehealth is used for communication and counseling
  • 27 percent of the time it's used for monitoring and management
  • Triage for urgent care/primary care; maternal health; pediatric cancer and chronic pediatric health conditions were not well represented in reviews and studies
  • Older patients with chronic diseases were most frequently targeted for telehealth intervention 

The authors noted that there were limitations in their research, one of the main ones being terminology. The use of the term telehealth to cover myriad uses of technology in healthcare--describing everything from text reminders to robotic surgery--made finding the right studies challenging.

A two-pronged approach, they concluded, can be taken to further the reach of telemedicine. It would include developing more systematic reviews on increased uses of telemedicine for care, as well as conducting more primary research on topics like triage in urgent/primary care and management of serious pediatric conditions.

To learn more:
- here's the brief (.pdf)

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