Report forecasts surge in telehealth

IHS forecasts 1.8 million patients worldwide by 2017

NEW YORK — Telehealth is expected to reach 1.8 million patients around the world by 2017, according to a new report by healthcare market research firm IHS.

IHS' InMedica division released the report, "The World Market for Telehealth – An Analysis of Demand Dynamics – 2012," projecting a sharp rise in the number of patients receiving telehealth. In 2012, there were about 308,000 patients remotely monitored by healthcare providers for congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, hypertension and mental health conditions worldwide.

Telehealth, which will feature prominently at the Retail Clinician Education Congress in May, is also used to monitory ambulatory patients who have been diagnosed with a disease at an ambulatory care facility but have not been hospitalized. At the same time, telehealth has a much larger penetration in post-acute care compared with ambulatory care patients because the majority of patients are only considered for home monitoring following hospital discharge to prevent re-admission. In 2012, 140,000 post-acute patients were estimated to have been monitored by telehealth, compared with 80,000 ambulatory patients.

The majority of telehealth patients have congestive heart failure, while the number with COPD is projected to grow strongly as telehealth's focus continues to expand to respiratory disease, the report found, but diabetes is expected to overtake COPD and account for the second-largest share of telehealth patients by 2017.

"A major challenge for telehealth is for it to reach the wider population of ambulatory care patients," InMedica analyst Theo Ahadome said. "However, the clinical and economic outcomes for telehealth are more established for post-acute care patients. Indeed, even for post-acute care patients, telehealth is usually prescribed only in the most severe cases, and where patients have been hospitalized more than once in a year."

The main drivers of demand are expected to be the federal government, as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services looks to reduce readmission penalties; providers looking to use telehealth to increase ties to patients and improve care quality; payers looking to increase competitiveness; and patients, particularly those living in areas with poor availability of clinics and physicians.


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