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Healthcare Orgs Eyeing International Telemedicine

News  |  By Debra Shute  
   November 16, 2017

Opportunities in telemedicine are moving faster and farther than healthcare execs predicted just three years ago, a new survey reveals.

Healthcare organizations have adopted telemedicine at a much faster pace than their own senior executives predicted just a few years ago, according to a new survey from Foley & Lardner, LLP.

While 87% of respondents to the law firm's 2014 survey said they didn't expect most of their patients to be using telemedicine by 2017, the senior healthcare executives responding in the third quarter of this year revealed that 76% of them currently offer or plan to offer telemedicine services in the near future.

Additional highlights from the 2017 Foley Telemedicine and Digital Health Survey include the following:

  • Out of the majority of organizations that already or plan to offer telemedicine services, 68% of those who offer it have exceeded the implementation phase; 53% said they were in the growth or expansion phase, and 15% were in the mature or optimization phases.
  • Third-party reimbursement remains a leading challenge, cited by almost 60% of respondents. However, 76% reported some or all of their telemedicine services were reimbursed, compared with 41% of respondents who said in 2014 that they received no reimbursement for a telemedicine visit.
  • Fewer than half of respondents (46%) said they track telemedicine's return on investment. Nonetheless, report authors wrote, "The widespread move toward implementation indicates that questions about financial returns have been settled, and that telemedicine technology has proven its financial viability."
  • Nearly a third of those who do track ROI reported generating savings of 20% or more, while 29% said it generated no savings.
  • Despite complex laws and regulations governing telemedicine around the world, 22% of respondents said they already offer telemedicine services internationally, and 32% expressed interest in doing so in the future. Consultations, second opinions, and specialties such as radiology and pathology lend themselves particularly well to international telemedicine, the report noted. Moreover, given a challenging environment for third-party reimbursement in the United States, providers may welcome expansion in markets where patients pay in cash, authors wrote.
  • Respondents viewed population health (34%) as having the greatest artificial intelligence opportunity potential to their organizations, but cited cost (28%) and interoperability (25%) as the top challenges to implementing AI.

Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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