Most healthcare organizations and providers plan to expand their use of telehealth programs, based on the benefits they have experienced so far, according to a study released today by KLAS Research and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). But some also expressed concerns about reimbursement and other potential limitations, according to the study.
Telehealth has the potential to revolutionize healthcare with both healthcare organizations and legislators hoping it will lower costs, improve patient access and improve clinical outcomes. But it is still in the early stages of adoption. KLAS and CHIME worked together to develop and conduct the study to assess how healthcare organizations currently use telehealth solutions and identify barriers to its adoption.
The 104 healthcare organizations with telehealth programs that participated in the study raised questions about cost, reimbursement, available technology, value, the patient experience and integration. Still, the majority surveyed said they plan to either expand the number of specialties served or expand patient access to providers using telehealth systems. They listed patient convenience among the top benefits. This is promising for telehealth, whose success ultimately hinges on patients’ embrace of this option.
“Telehealth offers a great opportunity to enhance the lives of patients by making healthcare accessible to them wherever they may be,” said Russell P. Branzell, CEO and president of CHIME. “Our members are advocates for improving patients’ lives through innovations like telehealth. But it needs to be carefully implemented to meet its potential and we still face headwinds with reimbursement and integration issues.”
“Telehealth holds enormous promise,” said Adam Gale, president of KLAS. “However, the underlying technology needs to evolve faster. In particular, integration of telehealth with provider EMR’s is still at a primitive level. Vendors need to step up in terms of technology and improved support.”
The study found healthcare organizations used their virtual care platform vendor in one or more of three primary visit types:
– Scheduled/Patient Focused, to increase patient access by allowing patients to schedule and conduct a clinical visit virtually
– On-demand/Consumer Focused, to decrease the costs for patients and providers by dealing with urgent/nonemergency medical needs of patients on-demand
– Telespecialty consultations, to improve the clinical outcomes of patients by increasing their access to needed specialists.
About half of the study respondents listed reimbursement as a limitation, noting that some payers have been slow to reimburse telehealth visits and or reimburse at rates that are lower than face-to-face care. Most said integration between their electronic medical record and virtual care platform vendor was nonexistent or unidirectional.
They also cited improved patient access as a major benefit, and three-quarters reported that they were actively planning to either expand the number of specialties served or expand patient access to providers using their present solution.