Future of Telemedicine Is Bright

November 16, 2012
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The American Medical News Web site features a story on the growth in telemedicine.

The American Medical News Web site features a story on the growth in telemedicine.

Pamela Lewis Dolan’s article, “Where growth is coming in telemedicine,” picks up on the recent Frost & Sullivan report on the top 20 telemedicine markets.  The research and consulting firm has done a number of reports on the business aspect of telemedicine.  In this latest paper, it foresees the biggest growth area to be home healthcare and the monitoring of chronic disease, but right alongisde are remote doctor and specialist services.

Broken down into short-term and long-term opportunities for physicians, home healthcare and remote services scored the highest in each.  The Frost & Sullivan does not make any projections regarding monetary growth for each sector, but regards the top five markets as being worth nearly two billion dollars in revenue each year.

The article also cites the BCC Research report released in March that projects the global telehealth market to more than double by 2016.  Last year, it was worth $11.6 billion, but will grow to more than $26 billion in four years time.  What is identified as the “telehospital/clinic market” will grow to more than $17.5 billion during that timeframe.

I’ve had people ask me how will the election affect the telemedicine industry.  Of course, they’re asking that in light of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remaining in place.  My answer was and is that telemedicine will be a huge growth area no matter which party occupies the White House because telemedicine IS healthcare reform.  The BCC Research report authors knew that earlier this year when they released their market analysis report.  With an estimated 30 million more people to be covered by health insurance under the ACA, and the increasing shortage of healthcare providers, there will be tremendous interest in solving the demand-and-supply problem with telemedicine.

What about the ROI (return on investment) for telemedicine?  The authors adeptly point out that ROI is hard to evaluate, that you have to look to the money telemedicine saves, not to the revenue it generates.  For example, if a stroke patient can be evaluated by a neurologist within the three-hour window from the onset of symptoms, a course of tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) may help preserve the patient’s independence.  Otherwise, the outcome may be confinement in a 24-hour care facility for life.  The American Academy of Neurologists has found that 45% of Americans live an hour away from the nearest neurologist.  That’s an average – a lot of us are even farther away.  Telemedicine eliminates the distance from specialists and can get appropriate care started sooner.  It is truly a “no brainer.”

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