Connected healthcare has the potential to create better patient outcomes due to the many benefits of new services and capabilities, such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring.  New devices and applications are emerging and the benefits have been seen by many patients and providers.  The American Heart Association has gone as far as recommending telehealth for cardiovascular disease and stroke care.

But, there are mixed reports regarding general adoption.  HIMSS reports 71% of providers are using telemedicine tools, while the American Medical Association reports a much lower 15% adoption rate.  In addition, 83% of patients said they have never used a telehealth service.  What it means is the true figure is somewhere between the two but, more importantly, there is still much room for growth, presenting an opportunity for providers to enhance their practices.  But, there are a few factors that will help ease the process.

Perception

The technology aspect of connected health is familiar to most patients, even most older patient populations are using smartphones and mobile apps in their personal lives to connect with family and friends.  What can come into question is the quality of interactions during virtual visits. In fact, patients have expressed concern over the lack of in-person interaction, not having a physical exam, or the general quality of care, which likely impacts their decision to avoid telehealth.

Physicians who are integrating virtual care into their practices acknowledge the concern, but say that once patients have experienced a virtual visit, they realize the interactions can be exactly the same as with an in-person visit.  The key lies in not only ensuring the appropriate technology is in place, but in having a clearly defined procedure for successful visits.  With virtual care integrated into existing workflows and practices, providers should be able to reduce existing perceptions of telehealth.

Reimbursement

It’s logical that patients will opt for care options that have higher reimbursement rates to limit their out-of-pocket costs.  Progress has been made over the past few years, including Congress enacting the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act last year.  In addition, CMS this year has made it easier for providers to get reimbursed for connected health services.  While these are steps in the right direction, it doesn’t yet cover all of the connected health services that can increase the quality and convenience of care and help relieve the burden on the healthcare system.  But, are more regulation is passed, adoption is likely to grow.

Systems

The right technology is critical to the success of any connected health program.  That includes network infrastructure and connectivity to deliver services without interruption at all times.  It also means having the right connected health solution that addresses healthcare providers’ objectives and enables them to effectively integrate connected health services into their offerings.  Without the right system in place, providers will be ill-equipped to deliver on the promise of telehealth, RPM, and other services.  Even as regulation evolves, an inability to deliver will impede growth and will work against changing any preconceived notions about the quality of connected health.

Patients are generally open to the idea of connected health and the majority say they are interested in having a variety of care options to address different needs and circumstances.  As these barriers are lowered and as word spreads about positive connected health experiences and the higher quality of care it can deliver, adoption will increase.

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