During late November and December 2015, REACH Health conducted the 2016 U.S. Telemedicine Industry Benchmark Survey among healthcare executives, physicians, nurses and other professionals throughout the United States. Three hundred ninety (390) individuals participated in the survey, which represents a 67% increase from the 2015 survey. Participants provided input related to their priorities, objectives and challenges, telemedicine program models and management structures, clinical specialties, service lines and settings of care, and their telemedicine platforms. This second annual report examines the survey results, including detailed findings such as the telemedicine program attributes that are most highly correlated with success.
The following is an executive summary of findings from our 2016 Telemedicine Industry Benchmark Survey:
- Telemedicine continues to evolve from a specialty offering to a mainstream service. Nearly two-thirds of survey participants noted telemedicine as their top priority or one of their highest priorities for their healthcare organizations. This represents a 10% increase from 2015.
- Patient-oriented objectives including improving patient outcomes, improving patient convenience and increasing patient engagement and satisfaction occupy the top three positions as the most common objectives for telemedicine programs.
- Although “Improving Financial Return” ranks in the bottom third of telemedicine objectives, topping the list of return on investment (ROI) drivers is “Improved Patient Satisfaction,” which is also one of the top three objectives. This seems to indicate that patient satisfaction is recognized for driving increased ROI, but the primary motives for improving satisfaction may not be financially driven.
- Issues stemming from reimbursement and EMR systems pose the top impediments to telemedicine, accounting for six of the top seven challenges.
- Reimbursement, both government and private, poses the primary obstacle to success. Even when effective mitigation of challenges is taken into account, reimbursement continues to present the most formidable obstacle.
- Persistent challenges related to EMR systems were also widely noted in the survey. These include the lack of integration between telemedicine and EMR systems and lack of native telemedicine capabilities in EMR systems. Also noted were challenges posed by the use of multiple EMR systems in heterogeneous telemedicine networks.
- Maturity of telemedicine programs varies widely among both service lines and settings of care. In general, settings requiring highly specialized treatment are more mature than those requiring generalized treatment.
- As the telemedicine industry continues to mature, hospitals and healthcare systems exhibit an increasing trend toward an enterprise approach to telemedicine.
- Regardless of maturity, all settings and specialties studied exhibit a high degree of activity in terms of planning and preparation for telemedicine programs.
- A variety of program attributes were tested in the study and correlated with program success. Some, such as the priority of the telemedicine program as ranked among other hospital priorities, exhibit a predictably strong correlation with success. Others, such as the degree of focus for the program manager, also exhibit a high correlation to program success. Executive support reveals a significantly higher correlation to success than adequacy of funding.