Telehealth a top priority for hospitals, improves patient engagement

Telehealth a top priority for hospitals, improves patient engagement

The rise of telemedicine has continued to grow and expand across a number of service lines, as it is no longer used specifically in specialty areas. By enabling services to be more cost-friendly and convenient for consumers, telemedicine is helping many hospitals improve patient engagement.

Telehealth as top priority for hospitals
Healthcare IT News reported on the recent REACH Health 2016 U.S. Telemedicine Industry Benchmark Survey of 390 health care professionals. Nurses, physicians, executives and others in the industry replied to questions on everything from telehealth models and management structures to patient outcomes and hospital priorities. The findings indicated that improving patient engagement and outcomes were among the highest goals.

Moreover, 55 percent of study participants found that telemedicine was highly successful at improving patient outcomes at their site. Just 2 percent of professionals found it to be unsuccessful. The improvement of patient engagement due to the help of telemedicine was similar, ranking as highly successful at 44 percent of sites and moderately successful at 53 percent of sites. Again, only 3 percent of sites found telemedicine programs to be unsuccessful in increasing patient engagement.

According to Business Wire, telemedicine ranked as a top priority among respondents to the REACH Health survey. In fact, the study found there was a 10 percent increase in favorability since the 2015 survey. It revealed that two-thirds of participants named telemedicine as the highest or among the highest priorities.

"Telemedicine decision-making is rapidly moving from individual departments and specialties to an enterprise initiative," said Steve McGraw, President and CEO of REACH Health. "Both hospitals and health systems reported significant increases in the average number of telemedicine service lines which are active or being implemented in concert."

Implementing telemedicine
Back in November 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services unveiled a new payment model for joint replacements, reported mHealth Intelligence. The Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) model holds the hospitals in which knee and hip replacements take place, accountable for costs and quality of the entire procedure for up to three months after discharge.

More notably however, the model would allow hospitals to use telehealth upon their discharge. This is where the power of improving patient outcomes really comes into play. Utilizing the technology in this way would allow physicians to monitor a patient's transfer back home or to a rehabilitation center and thus, better care for the patient, prescribe treatment and more. Not only would this allow for optimal communication between the physician, provider, suppliers and patient, but the patient would be receiving the best care. Previously, there had been strict rules on reimbursable telehealth uses. 

Yet since the model calls for extensive planning on the part of the hospital, there have already been several proposals for a delay.

Moving forward
Despite the increase in patient engagement however, a lack of return on investment still remains. While numbers do not indicate a particular concern for ROI – 60 percent of study participants rated telemedicine as moderately successful – it is still considered an obstacle. Fifteen percent of respondents called the program unsuccessful in improving ROI. This hurdle must be overcome before telehealth becomes entirely mainstream.