Telehealth continues rapid growth even as reimbursement lags

As readers of FierceMobileHealthcare know well, telehealth is booming. Telecommunications firms are tripping over each other trying to get a piece of this fast-growing market, and smartphones, of course, have proliferated in the healthcare industry. A recent report by Intel found that two-thirds of healthcare decision-makers surveyed had tried telehealth technologies, and 50 percent of the rest had plans to do so within a year.

And then there's the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA's Care Coordination/Home Telehealth Program has more than 43,000 patients whose chronic conditions are monitored from home. (The fact that the VA adds "care coordination" to the title is significant in itself.) Studies at the VA, the Cleveland Clinic and in Spain have shown that telehealth technologies can reduce hospital admissions and length of stay for patients with serious chronic ailments, while improving quality of life.

Meanwhile, as health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn notes in her latest iHealthBeat commentary, established players in telehealth like GE Healthcare are being challenged by scrappy upstarts. The founder of MinuteClinic has a new company, Zipnosis, that links patients and health providers via phone or online videoconference, and there's already some tough competition in that market.

Alas, all this growth is happening despite the fact that health plans don't reimburse for many of these technologies. But some of the flexibility built into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could change this dynamic and breed more innovation.

To learn more:
- read Sarasohn-Kahn's commentary in iHealthBeat