Telehealth has moved from a novelty to a mainstream access point. But questions remain about the limits of its reach and effectiveness, and, most problematically, its reimbursement.
Despite a catchy name, telehealth isn't exactly cutting-edge technology. Really, very few of the components needed to make it work are in the vanguard of innovation for either healthcare or technology.
But to think of telemedicine in healthcare as a technology story really misses the point. In fact, telehealth is more than that: It's critical and strategic.
Telehealth plays a key, if not starring, role in a continuing saga familiar to senior healthcare executives nationwide: the quest to meet the so-called triple aim of quality, access, and reduction of unit costs.
Bound up in its promise is greater efficiency, patient convenience, and, to a certain extent, competitive advantage.
Many telemedicine strategies begin with the basic goal of providing patient services more efficiently to populations that are not in major towns and cities.
That's why much of telemedicine's growth has come not from major teaching hospitals and urban populations but from rural facilities that have trouble recruiting specialists to practice in their area, and thus face losses of patients who must often travel to more densely populated areas to access the care they need.
Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders.