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    Four Fresh New Perspectives on Telemedicine for Health Execs


    Healthcare executives are interested in telemedicine. In fact, for the majority, it is high on their radar, according to a new survey.

    According to Defining Telemedicine's Role: The View From the C-Suite, from Sage Growth Partners (SGP), a Baltimore-based healthcare research, strategy, and marketing firm, 86% of healthcare executives say telemedicine is a priority, but they’re cautious about committing their limited budgets to it, likely due to the complex regulatory environment and reimbursement challenges.

    Conducted in May 2017, the report surveyed nearly 100 healthcare executives alongside additional quantitative and qualitative research. Nearly two thirds (59%) were C-suite executives, and 41% were service line leaders or department chiefs. Respondents represented integrated delivery networks (30%), community hospitals (30%), specialty hospitals (25%), and academic medical centers (16%).

    “In conducting the research that went into this report, we were really interested in understanding what was happening on the ground. Our new survey findings that explore healthcare executives’ application and adoption of telemedicine technology,” says Dan D’Orazio, CEO, Sage Growth Partners. “Budgets are growing, albeit modestly. Sixty-six percent of respondents reported budgets of $250,000 or less. When you break that down, 41% have budgets of $100,000 or less and 26% have budgets from $100,000 to $250,000.”

    With so many vendors in the market, another finding is the growing friction for telemedicine applications across settings of care, D’Orazio says.

    “There’s a divide between the direct-to-consumer (DTC) telemedicine players and their inability to fit with acute care needs,” he explains.

    According to the report 36% of the respondents say consumer-based technologies (Skype, Vidyo, iPhone, etc.) are appropriate for telemedicine in acute care settings; though 20% express concern regarding these solutions’ HIPAA compliance. A majority (64%) say these DTC solutions are not appropriate or dangerous.

    “It’s clear that telemedicine applications may not fit into a ‘one size solution’ fits all,” D’Orazio says.

    Continuum of care

    “Operationally, we explored the telemedicine’s use across the continuum of care,” he says. More than half of respondents said they would tolerate only 1-2 telemedicine vendors at most—they’re seeking an enterprise solution. Only 15% believe three or more vendors are acceptable. Connectivity is another critical factor, with 70% asserting that extremely reliable connectivity is a must-have, but nearly half say their connection fails up to 15% of the time. This points to a market that is still maturing, according to D’Orazio.

    We view telemedicine as much more than a technology if adopted strategically—we believe it can serve as a powerful access point through the enablement of virtual care, remote visits etc. Increased primary care and mental health access can keep patients out of the ED, while more access to specialty care can help manage chronic conditions and prevent crises that would result in costlier treatment,” he says. “Telemedicine can also help optimize settings of care, as physicians can continue to monitor and provide remote care to patients in post-acute care facilities and in the home.”

    Fresh advice

    Healthcare executives agree that telemedicine can help drive patient health and appropriately manage total cost of care across care settings, according to D’Orazio.

    “Despite market immaturity, executives should seriously consider telemedicine’s potential and invest accordingly to stay competitive,” he says. “We know that there are many factors beyond a clinical visit that impact a members' well-being, and telemedicine can be an important engagement solution.”

    D’Orazio offers four new perspectives on telemedicine:

    1. View telemedicine as an opportunity to position your organization as the provider of choice and build your brand. “We see from our conversations across the industry and the research we’ve conducted that patients and members increasingly want new methods to connect with care delivery, outside of the normal brick and mortar care settings,” he says.
    2. The telemedicine journey is just that, a journey. “Most organizations are not adopting telemedicine across all settings of care at once,” D’Orazio says. “A stepwise approach seems very wise. For those healthcare executives selecting a single telemedicine solution, they should ensure that the vendor can truly meet their needs across the care spectrum.”
    3. Clearly articulate the goals of telemedicine. “Approaching this as just another technology buy that you think you may need will likely lead to sub-par results,” he says. “It is more important to first understand your overall business strategy then identify how telemedicine can support your overall objectives.”
    4. Figure out how you will measure success with your telemedicine endeavors. Applying traditional metrics to a burgeoning solution like telemedicine may require measuring success with a new yardstick, according to D’Orazio.



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