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Telehealth to usher new era in healthcare delivery

Posted: 20 May 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:teleheath? healthcare? telecommunications?

Healthcare delivery in the United States will see dramatic changes over the next 10 years through the adoption of telehealth, according to a national survey of healthcare and IT professionals sponsored by Intel Corp.

The study found that a majority of decision makers believe that the emergence of telehealth will have a major role in improving the quality and delivery of care to an increasingly chronically ill and aging population.

"The survey demonstrates the increasing need to shift from the current reactive healthcare system to a more proactive model that champions the patient and gives clinicians the information they need," said Mariah Scott, director of sales and marketing for the Intel digital health group. "At Intel, we are dedicated to creating telehealth and remote health management solutions today to create a better healthcare landscape for tomorrow."

Telehealth solutions, which deliver health-related services and information via telecommunications and computing technologies, are currently being used by two-thirds of healthcare professionals with an 87 percent satisfaction rate. These professionals believe that improved patient outcomes are the biggest perceived advantage to telehealth adoption, followed by additional benefits such as more complete clinician access to patient data and early identification of health issues. Of the respondents not currently utilizing telehealth, 50 percent plan on implementing it within the next year as the market for telehealth and home health monitoring is expected to grow from $3 billion in 2009 to an estimated $7.7 billion by 2012.

With the onset of the globally aging population and increasing numbers of chronically ill patients, a hospital-based, transaction-driven healthcare system is no longer sustainable. The study shows clinical decision makers believe that the adoption of technology, and particularly telehealth solutions, will cut costs and improve patient outcomes. Additionally, the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides an impetus to start using new models of care when dealing with chronically ill and aging populations. For respondents, healthcare legislation will have the biggest impact on healthcare delivery in the next 5 years, and they have high confidence that the law will accelerate the adoption of telehealth.

According to clinical decision makers, reimbursement is the primary barrier to telehealth adoption. Despite evidence that telehealth can reduce hospital readmissions by up to 25 percent and significantly cut costs for healthcare organizations, many see changes in reimbursement policy as necessary to enable wider access to telehealth care. Following reimbursement, concerns that clinical staff and patients will be unable to successfully use new technologies, despite strong evidence to the contrary in pilot studies, remain a major barrier to adoption.

Telehealth is already creating sustainable change in today's healthcare industry by moving care from the hospital to the home and achieving true patient-centered care that transcends boundaries of time and location. This study reveals a need for better education about how to overcome perceived barriers in order to implement proven and cost-effective systems that improve quality of life for patients and clinicians alike.

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