Telemedicine success will hinge on patience, maturation

Arizona Telemedicine Program Director Ronald Weinstein believes that while telemedicine success doesn't come easy, patience is key to positive results.

"Maturity is the capacity for delayed gratification," Weinstein tells the Institute for Health Technology Transformation in a recent interview. "Telemedicine programs don't mature overnight."

Calling virtual "the new reality in healthcare," Weinstein predicts that by 2020, as many as half of all healthcare transactions could be outsourced. To that end, he says, telemedicine is most effective in hospital settings where the C-suite is more innovative.

Weinstein adds that, for the time being, telemedicine advocates should focus on clearing the ever present regulatory hurdles, as well as continuing to build up proven applications of the technology, such as for stroke patients and remote radiology efforts.

Last spring, American Telemedicine Association CEO Jonathan Linkous called telemedicine a potential profit center, emphasizing its role as a business tool, while speaking at the organization's international meeting in Austin, Texas.

"This is an incredible time for healthcare, and we need to look at it from within a specific framework in terms of the dollars and cents of it," Linkous said. "We want … to gain a better understanding of the return on investment associated with telemedicine as well as efficient ways of operating a program."

Revenue in the telehealth services industry is expected to grow by an annualized 30.7 percent to $320.2 million in the next five years, including revenue growth of 23.1 percent in 2014, according to a recently published survey. According to the report's authors, existing legislation, such as the Affordable Care Act, as well as pending legislation to expand federal reimbursement for telehealth services will be vital to that growth.

To learn more:
- read the iHT2 interview with Weinstein