In recent months the subject of Telehealth has generated steadily increasing interest and "buzz" in the media, industry circles and among politicians. Will all this "buzz" and attention finally translate into what Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) characterized as a "banner year" for Telehealth in 2013? Is Telehealth "ready for prime time at last?
Both Information Week and Computerworld cite reports that project a six-fold increase in home-based health monitoring and a nearly five-fold growth in the number of in-home monitoring devices between now and 2017. A new InMedica study projects remote patient monitoring use to grow from 300,000 patients today to 1.8 million worldwide by 2017, while Berg Insight predicts the volume of home-based remote monitoring devices to increase from 2.8 million to 9.4 million connections by 2017.
World Telehealth Patients (thousands by disease state)
Source: InMedica - World Market for Telehealth
Telehealth growth is being fueled primarily by the efforts of governments worldwide to curb increasing healthcare costs. As a result, the majority of patients using remote monitoring devices are post-acute patients with long-term chronic conditions such as congestive heart failure, COPD, diabetes, hypertension and mental health issues.
The use of these devices is increasingly being viewed as critical for reducing hospital readmission rates, tracking disease progression to improve outcomes and quality of care, as well as an efficient and cost effective solution for care access in rural and remote areas.
According to the ATA, growth is also being facilitated by a flurry of legislation mandating coverage for telemedicine services similar to the way in-person visits are covered, resulting in more and more payers (most recently Wellpoint) including remote monitoring coverage in their plans. At the same time, research shows that payers are recognizing that they can increase their competitiveness and reduce in-patient payouts by working with Telehealth suppliers.
"After 40-plus years of development, telemedicine has finally come of age," ATA CEO Linkous writes, and argues that demonstration grants, projects and experimental research are giving way to Silicon Valley, private payers and consumer groups embracing the technology to transform the delivery and quality of care. Linkous sums it up nicely when he says, "Whether you call it telehealth, mHealth or remote monitoring, the deployment of telemedicine is galloping."