Global telehealth market device revenues are expected to grow by 55 percent in 2013, according to the latest edition of Telehealth—An Analysis of Demand Dynamics, an annual report produced by InMedica, the technology research division of U.K.-based IMS Research. The prediction is in vivid contrast to the sluggish growth of the market since 2011, when revenues rose a mere five percent amid a dismal global economy (especially in the United States and Europe) and what the InMedica report calls the “ambiguity on the impact of healthcare reform and readmission penalties on telehealth in the U.S.”
Many hospitals and health systems say telehealth’s prime time has come. The technology is relatively mature, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ migration away from fee-for-service payment models makes the use of the technology easier to justify.
In March, Geisinger Health System, Danville, Pa., announced the results of its two-year telemonitoring program, which combined remote monitoring and traditional case management to track congestive heart failure patients after their discharge from the hospital. Through the program, Geisinger reduced its readmissions by almost half (44 percent), and case managers discovered that they could handle increased caseloads. Based on the success of the program, Geisinger has expanded the telemonitoring program to include patients with diabetes and hypertension.
But analysts see the real benefit coming from adjoined use in both acute and post-acute care. “For telehealth to succeed in reaching a wider audience, it needs to break out of being a niche market and become part of a comprehensive patient-care model,” says Theo Ahadome, senior analyst at InMedica, in a report summary. “This is even more important in the post-acute care market where healthcare providers are more willing to pay for telehealth if it is part of a total post-acute care model. In such a situation, healthcare provider reimbursed or allocated prepaid funds for patient outcomes irrespective of the chosen method. In some cases and for some diseases, telehealth will be part of that model.”
A prime example is long-term and post-acute care facilities, where remote patient monitoring is seeing expanded use. In the highly regulated skilled nursing sector, where disease acuity and resident ages are rising rapidly, remote monitoring can reduce liability for falls, urinary tract infections and wandering. Within assisted living environments, these systems are combining patient health monitoring, medication management and evencertain activities of daily living.
“Despite criticism of health care reform, it is clear that the long-term goals of the CMS are to move toward greater continuity of care while reducing costs through the avoidance of unnecessary duplication of services,” noted Shane Walker, co-author of InMedica’s report. “The beginning of this transition is the voluntary creation of accountable care organizations (ACOs), and the implementation of appropriate incentives to foster their adoption.”