Hospitals that actively engage in telehealth applications are more inclined to take on risk, are probably located in a competitive marketplace, and are more likely to report improved patient access to services.

These and other findings were reported by Teladoc during a May webinar on hospital executives’ perspectives on consumer telehealth. “I think if you’re not doing telehealth in the next few years you’re behind the curve,” said Alan Roga, Teladoc’s provider market president. Roga presented the findings during the webinar and concluded that telehealth provides another access point for hospitals that are too important to ignore.

Teladoc surveyed 179 health systems executives and found that a good percentage of hospital executives are aware of the benefits of telehealth and have already used the technology. Hospitals are more likely to kick off telehealth capabilities through primary care and pediatric providers in their networks, Teladoc found. And the majority have a marketing budget greater than $250,000 and cite reimbursement and integration as the main challenges.

Teladoc found that many hospitals are also starting to create a telehealth director position at their systems to help focus on what executives feel are the most important elements of the technology, including patient satisfaction (70 percent), physician satisfaction (44 percent), increased new visits as a result of telehealth usage (37 percent), and a positive return on investment (28 percent).

The main telehealth goals listed by the executives surveyed include increasing access and use of care coordination programs, better management of at-risk populations, and reducing readmissions.

Additional characteristics shared by the systems include assuming risk, being located in a competitive market, and making retail walk-in services available for patients.

Basically, these health systems are ahead of the curve when it comes to embracing innovative population health management and care coordination programs. Their executives are more likely to realize the benefits of being up-to-date on the latest in technological developments and of reaching out to vendor experts for assistance.

That the systems are more likely to be in a competitive marketplace is indicative that most are probably based in or near an urban setting. Smaller hospitals in rural areas are therefore likely struggling to keep up with the latest in healthcare informatics and services—but a main concept of telehealth is to better assist rural health care facilities by offering instant expertise. By leading the way, these large system early adopters should pave the way for increased telehealth coordination with smaller, rural hospitals.

Chris Silva is a senior analyst at DRG and specializes in information technology, telehealth, and big data, among other topics. Follow him on Twitter at @ChrisSilvaDRG


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