Telehealth services will reach 1.8 million patients worldwide in 2017, up from just 308,000 in 2012, according to a new report from InMedica.
Take-up will be driven by a combination of factors, including the introduction of readmission penalties in the US and the promotion of telehealth as a long-term cost-saving measure in the UK, France and China.
Healthcare providers also want to use telehealth to increase ties to patients and improve the quality of care – often irrespective of the lack of a clear financial return on investment, says InMedica.
Meanwhile, insurance providers are increasingly relying on telehealth services to increase competitiveness and reduce in-patient pay-outs.
Demand from patients actively seeking out and requesting telehealth services is usually restricted to rural and non-metropolitan areas, where there is poor availability of clinics and physicians, but consumers are likely to increasingly seek professional devices to remotely track disease state as fitness awareness grows.
InMedica’s research also looks at the disparity between so-called post-acute patients and ambulatory patients – those diagnosed with a disease at an ambulatory care facility but not hospitalized.
According to the report, telehealth has a much larger penetration in post-acute care than ambulatory care because most patients are only considered for home monitoring following hospital discharge to prevent readmission. In the US, for example, 140,000 post-acute patients were estimated to have been monitored by telehealth in 2012, compared with 80,000 ambulatory patients.
“A major challenge for telehealth, is for it to reach the wider population of ambulatory care patients,” said Theo Ahadome, a senior analyst at InMedica. “However, the clinical and economic outcomes for telehealth are more established for post-acute care patients. Indeed, even for post-acute care patients, telehealth is usually prescribed only in the most severe cases, and where patients have been hospitalized more than once in a year.”
InMedica says that congestive heart failure (CHF) currently accounts for the majority of telehealth patients, but the number of patients for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) projected to grow strongly as telehealth focus continues to expand to respiratory diseases.
Nevertheless, by 2017, diabetes is forecast to account for the second-largest share of telehealth patients, overtaking COPD.
Home monitoring of glucose levels for diabetes patients is more established through personal glucose monitors and there is an increasing drive to integrate these monitors with telehealth systems.