Poor reimbursement rates slow telehealth growth

A recent telemedicine survey from Anthem and the American Academy of Family Physicians' Robert Graham Center confirmed industry optimism and infrastructural woes in telehealth practice.

The survey examined attitudes, usage and beliefs of family physicians in the U.S. toward telehealth. Of 1,557 physicians consulted, 15 percent indicated the use of telehealth tools in their practice. 

Using smartphones, email, two-way video and other popular devices, telemedicine enables clinicians to provide remote clinical care to the homebound, chronically ill, regionally isolated and those otherwise denied convenient access to physician offices. Survey results indicated that users and non-users alike believe telehealth has the potential to improve access to care, improve continuity and decrease travel time for patients.

However, physicians surveyed cited various barriers currently impede telehealth viability. Administrative issues, lack of training and credentials, absence of payment guidelines and a dearth of suitable technological platforms prevent most physicians from embracing teleheath service options until health system reform occurs.

Below are five statistics on current telehealth practitioners from the survey:

1. Rural physicians with limited access to patients account for 29 percent of telehealth users.

2. Physicians who use telehealth have been in practice for fewer than 10 years on average.

3. Fifty-five percent of users employ telehealth tools for diagnostic and treatment purposes.

4. Real-time video accounts for nearly half of telehealth deployment.

5.  Eighty-five percent of non-users reported they would consider using telehealth if reimbursement was assured. 

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