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Making the Business Case for Virtual Care

By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   April 25, 2017

A KPMG survey shows 31% of healthcare organizations currently use video-based services and 34% offer remote patient monitoring.

Telehealth is approaching a tipping point: Consumers and the technology are ready, and the clinical case has been made. There's just one element left to resolve.

"The challenge to it is there's no sustainable business model," says Richard Bakalar, MD, KPMG managing director and member of the firm's Global Healthcare Center of Excellence.

KPMG has released its Digital Health Pulse 2017, a survey conducted by HIMSS Analytics, of 147 hospital executives that included C-suite, IT, and clinical leaders. Respondents were asked about the state of adoption for virtual care services and the top challenges hospitals and healthcare systems face in digital health.

It found that about 31% of healthcare organizations currently use video-based services and 34% offer remote patient monitoring. About half of providers said they had clinician-to-clinician consults or continuous monitoring through telestroke or teleICU offerings.

When asked how they would classify the maturity of their virtual care initiatives, though, only 4.5% said they had an "Advanced Virtual Care Program, with central governance and standard clinical workflow, technology solution and KPI reporting, supporting greater than five service lines."

The biggest percentage—45% of respondents—said "the time is right and we are just beginning with one or two pilot projects." Another 28.8% said their programs could be described as having "Early program investments with less than three FTE staff supporting the network for two-plus service lines across the organization."

Making the Business Case for Virtual Care

When asked about the challenges in virtual care, a quarter of survey respondents said "maintaining a sustainable business and/or financial model" was the biggest challenge.

Bakalar points to a couple of reasons why making the business case has been a persistent challenge. Until now, he says, most telehealth incentives came in the form of grants. Although grants allow users to prove the clinical concept of telehealth, they also can have an adverse effect from a business perspective.

"You don't ever get to a sustainable biz model because you're dependent on these grants," he says.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

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