Telehealth, collaboration, supported by worldwide health care leaders, says Cisco survey

Telehealth and collaboration technology could transform health care delivery, say senior health care leaders from around the world, according to a survey conducted by the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) Research & Economics Practice and Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) released Wednesday at the World Health Care Congress in Washington, D.C. The Global Health Leaders Survey findings are summarized in a publication, The Health of Nations, available on Cisco's website.

The survey received responses from 96 leaders in 16 countries. Communication and collaboration among professionals ranked as the most promising path for near-term health care transformation. According to the executive summary, "sixty-five percent of respondents said the efficient exchange of information and expertise to diagnose and treat patients had high potential. A little over half as many—35 percent—said patients receiving health services via telehealth held high potential within the next five years."

Respondents prioritized health care access over affordability, listing access, efficiency, and quality as the "top-tier triad." They cited uneven distribution of professional expertise as the greatest practical challenge in delivering health services.

According to the summary, Cisco IBSG "asked global health leaders to imagine entirely new national programs in which telehealth-enabled approaches could address significant national challenges." First among programs seen by having the greatest potential for transformation was national "centers of excellence" enabled by telehealth. These centers would provide consultations, clinical encounters, and care-management support across inpatient, outpatient, community, and home-care settings in partnership with local providers. Eighty-six percent of respondents viewed such centers either “very” or “somewhat” viable, according to the summary.

Only 4 percent of respondents said there is “no compelling need to use telehealth,” but Cisco's summary points out that there is a great chasm between perceived potential and actual adoption of telehealth technology.

Leaders cited the “lack of interoperability standards, processes, and protocols" as the greatest technological barrier to widespread implementation of new services and health programs, and the lack of broadband infrastructure as the second greatest challenge.

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