Few technologies have telehealth’s potential to transform healthcare – for both physicians and the publics they serve. Telehealth can bring healthcare within the reach of more people, allow care to be delivered quickly across distances, and enable more healthcare professionals to deliver the right care to the right patient at the right time.
The Future Health Index (FHI) report uses data and interviews with leaders that are making value-based care happen around the world to produce practical insights that healthcare leaders in any market can apply to accelerate greater telehealth adoption.
Less than half of radiologists use connected care technologies in their practice
The report looks at the barriers that stand in the way of telehealth being implemented at the scale necessary to achieve real change, and provides recommendations for how they can be overcome. It focuses on four main areas, where telehealth arguably also shows the most promising early progress. Teleradiology, the transmission of radiological patient images between locations, and telepathology, the transfer of pathology data to facilitate diagnosis and research, are prime examples of the benefits telehealth can bring to clinician-to-clinician work. The tele-intensive care unit is improving response times and transforming patient monitoring for healthcare professionals. And in general practice, telehealth could consign long-distance travel and unnecessary appointments to the past.
Future Health Index 2018 offers four general recommendations to drive greater telehealth adoption and deliver value-based care more widely:
Build the financial case for telehealth implementation
Telehealth can be expensive to set up, run and maintain. Where reimbursement models are tied to the number of patients physically visiting a healthcare professional or institution, telehealth can even have a negative effect on income. Reimbursement models must be updated and connected to the value telehealth can deliver, while healthcare organizations can improve their collection of data that demonstrates return on investment
Ensure telehealth implementations go beyond the technical
Deployments must factor in training and education for the end-users to ensure these technologies are understood and successfully integrated into everyday practice. Healthcare professionals need to see how telehealth will make a process more efficient or error-free, while patients must understand how it contributes to a more convenient or cost-effective experience.
Develop a common language
The proliferation of different solutions and data formats can make it difficult for clinicians to share patient information effectively in some areas of telehealth. Standardization of formats, at least at the level of individual practice areas, will be needed to realize the network effects that telehealth promises by seamlessly connecting experts in multiple physical locations.
Base telehealth on recognition of differences
We may need more standardization of data formats, but telehealth will not look the same everywhere. Both infrastructure and solutions need to be tailored to the local environment. Developers should take limitations into account and seize on opportunities where they exist. A solution proven to deliver results in one market may need heavy modification for appropriate use in another.