After growing at a relatively modest rate over the last couple of years, worldwide device and service revenues from telehealth are expected to rise 55% in 2013, boosted by the rising adoption of telehealth in post-acute care strategies, according to new research from InMedica, a part of IMS Research.
Due to poor economic conditions in Europe, and uncertainty about healthcare reforms in the US, telehealth device revenues grew by only 5% between 2010 and 2011 – with the number of telehealth patients enrolled worldwide rising 22.2% to 241,200 – and by 18% between 2011 and 2012.
In the US, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began penalizing hospitals for readmissions in October 2012, leading healthcare providers to delay drawing up post-acute care plans.
According to InMedica, some have said it would be difficult to justify telehealth if they were paid on a fee-for-service basis. By contrast, the more pre-paid dollars they receive internally and from payers, the more they would be able to consider its implementation.
Nevertheless, telehealth is listed by the CMS as one of 13 possible ways to reduce readmissions. And with a larger number of patients entering the insurance pool, payers are expected to adopt telehealth systems as a way of reducing in-patient costs.
“Telehealth vendors and other stakeholders have an opportunity to help healthcare providers to develop an effective post-acute care strategy,” said Theo Ahadome, a senior analyst with InMedica. “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.”
“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 pre-paid funds for patient outcomes irrespective of the chosen method. In some cases and for some diseases, telehealth will be part of that model,” he said.
A further impetus in the US could come from increasing governmental concern about the rise in chronic conditions such as heart failure, obstructive pulmonary disease and obesity in a rapidly aging population.
“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,” said Shane Walker of IMS Research. “InMedica believes that telehealth is a tool that can significantly improve clinical outcomes while also achieving the ends of government initiatives. That said, it is clear from the provider and payer interviews conducted during this research that there is still much work to be done in advancing the state of telehealth in the US.”
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