By Christine Kern, contributing writer
Telehealth for disease conditions management will comprise over 50 percent of telehealth market.
An iData Research survey has projected the patient monitoring market will exceed $5 billion by 2020 as a result of double-digit growth over the next five years in the telehealth market. The study also predicts that telehealth for disease conditions management will comprise more than 50 percent of the total telehealth market, driven by increased chronic illness in an aging population, increasing demand for customized healthcare solutions, and financial pressures due to overburdened healthcare budgets.
“The goal of telehealth is to prevent hospital readmission, reduce in-office visits, better manage health of individuals with long term conditions and reduce costs for more remote and isolated health care providers,” Dr. Zamanian, CEO of iData explained.
Market growth is anticipated to be “further bolstered as awareness and implementation of standards for reimbursement and adoption of this type of care management increase,” according to iData, as public and private organizations each are expected to increase funding for telehealth expenditures as a fiscally responsible and efficient solution.
As Health IT Outcomes reported, there are three major hurdles for telehealth adoption including reimbursement, federal standards, and licensure. A policy report from ML Strategies explains, “Current federal law is extremely restrictive on how telehealth is paid for – resulting in a disincentive to provider adoption.” Restrictions only allow reimbursements for patients who receive virtual care at rural clinics and not in metropolitan areas.
However, some progress is being made in the area of telehealth reimbursement. For example, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed into law legislation that would require Medicaid to reimburse for telehealth service costs in New York. And in November, CMS issued a final rule updating physician fee schedules and boosting payments for telehealth services. This trend indicates there is growing recognition of the cost effectiveness and success of telehealth services in overall patient care and outcomes.
Other barriers still remain, including the fact that no federal telehealth standards are in place with each state having its own regulations. As ML Strategies explains, “Currently, there is no federal standard of clinical guidelines for telehealth,” creating a “patchwork of state laws that inhibit the proliferation of telehealth solutions in both the public and private sectors.” As telehealth grows in popularity, however, federal regulations will become necessary in order to guarantee consistency.
The final barrier to telehealth growth, according to the ML Strategies report, is licensure, as it raises issues of flexibility if a patient wishes to consult a telehealth provider across state lines. “With the advent of telehealth, licensing of health providers must be updated to reflect the flexibility provided by telehealth – allowing healthcare experts to bring their expertise virtually to where it is needed, even across state borders,” notes the report.
Nevertheless, despite the obstacles, the telehealth industry is set for unprecedented growth by 2020 as iData Research has asserted. According to a survey of senior healthcare executives released by law firm Foley & Lardner, “The reimbursement landscape is already changing, and there are many viable options for getting compensated for practicing telemedicine,” said Larry Vernaglia, chair of Foley’s Health Care Practice. “The smartest thing organizations can do now is to continue developing programs, and be ready for the law to catch up – because it will.”