AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

Telehealth Market Expected to Reach $17 Billion by 2020

Growth within the telemedicine marketplace continues to reach a fever pitch. Fueled by the shortage of physicians, increasing aged population, rising healthcare costs and expanding health insurance coverage for virtual healthcare, the emerging telemedicine market is set to soar in the coming decade. While some experts attribute telemedicine’s popularity to the to rise in smartphone use and consistent demand for quality virtual services, many healthcare systems are trying to reduce both the number of hospital visits and the length of stay in hospitals.

A new report entitled, “The Global Telemedicine Market Outlook 2020, studied the complete telemedicine industry which includes hardware, software and services. The telemedicine technologies market is anticipated to grow 8.4% and surpass $30 billion by 2020. “The report is a detailed study on the geographical distribution of telemedicine with the market sizes of North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific and provides an insight into different telemedicine applications.” North America is the largest market globally, accounting for more than 40 percent of the global market size.

Telemedicine, and the broader and increasingly more favorable term telehealth, includes medical services which use electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical healthcare. The relationship between telemedicine and health IT is recognized as complementary by the reports researchers.

Another report from information and analytics firm HIS predicts video consultations will jump to nearly 27 million in the U.S. market, a doubling of virtual video consultations between primary health care providers and their patients, in the next five years. The IHS report projects a cumulative annual growth of nearly 25% a year to 5.4 million video consultations by 2020. Healthcare payers are recognizing telehealth as a way for patients to get high quality care from a physician and to avoid a more expensive trip to a hospital emergency room. “We’ve seen growth in reimbursement,” Roeen Roashan, medical technology analyst with IHS said in a recent interview. “Specialty consultations are projected to jump from 14.5 million to 21.5 million.”

As the industry reaches new heights, the pace of growth will continue to be moderated by tepid physician support, outdated reimbursement models, technology costs, and legal and governmental regulations regarding telehealth practices. The industry has made significant changes in delivery models for clinical and acute care in the last 5 years. Telemedicine and telehealth programs are certainly proving to be the future of healthcare.

Telehealth is Disrupting the Traditional Healthcare Delivery Model

Walgreens has announced that it is teaming up with MDLive to offer virtual healthcare visits through their pharmacy mobile app. Walgreens customers have been able to connect with pharmacist and Walgreens staff via the app for several years, but a new expanded telemedical service will soon be offered to Walgreens customers in their California and Michigan retail outlets. Customers, or patients, will be able to consult with physicians virtually about routine acute conditions. Walgreens’ management plans to expand the new service to their retail centers in other states.

Telemedicine has found considerable success and acceptance as a tool to connect patients located in rural areas with medical specialist in urban medical centers, bringing much needed neurological and other medical specialties to patients previously denied convenient access to advanced, specialized care. Time sensitive virtual treatment for stroke and other neurological ailments are now readily available to patients regardless of where they live, saving valuable time, improving patient outcomes and saving lives.

But the expansion of telecommunication technology to broader telehealth applications is just beginning to be introduced to consumers through retail outlets and the workplace and is likely to disrupt the normal delineation of services in the medical care industry.

Walgreens is being joined by competitors CVS and Target in an aggressive entry into virtual, in-store healthcare clinics through partnerships with a growing number of emerging or established healthcare providers. Kaiser Permanente, a leading clinical healthcare provider, is now experiencing nearly half of their patient encounters virtually, in their Northern California clinics, which has grown from 4.1 million visits in 2008 to approximately 10.5 million at the end of 2013. Permanente Medical Group CEO, Robert Pearl is predicting that Kaiser’s virtual clinic visits will exceed in-person encounters by 2016.

Typically consumers use retail clinics for services such as vaccines, strep throat tests and treatments for other common maladies but the new entrants into the retail telehealth market are predicting that patients will also use the new virtual clinics for pediatric care, well-woman care, family planning and chronic-illness management.

Investors in the expanded retail telehealth market are banking on consumer/patients to continue to respond positively to the convenience and cost savings offered by telemedicine in order to successfully navigate through the start-up to profitability curve. It has been predicted for nearly a decade that advances in telecommunication technology would lead to a vastly different and innovative medical care delivery model. It would appear that the predictions are well on the way to becoming reality.

Georgia Continues to Lead the Way with Telemedicine in Public Schools

The usual topics of public school board meetings generally include such topics as the state of school budgets, discussions on appropriate text books, disciplinary policies, dress codes, or the progress report on new building construction. But during the regular monthly meeting of the Coffee County Board of Education, on February 13, 2013, Coffee Schools Nursing Supervisor Kathy Cole and Family Connections Director April Thomason announced that the Coffee County School System was recently awarded a $500,000 grant, which will be used to purchase telemedicine equipment. Utilizing telecommunications and information technologies in order to provide clinical health care at a distance is revolutionizing the delivery of medical care and services, and Cole stated, “By receiving this grant, we truly are on the cusp of something so very innovative.”

The state of Georgia continues to set the pace nationally for promoting telemedicine as a preferred mode of healthcare delivery, particularly in regions where the nearest doctors are often hours away from their patients. “Georgia is definitely a model for other states,” said Sherilyn Pruitt, director of the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, part of the division of rural health in the U.S. Health Resources Services Administration.

School boards across the country continue to struggle with providing appropriate levels of medical care to students attending public schools. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that medical services can be required as a part of the educational services school districts must provide. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that schools provide “related aids and services” so that children with disabilities can be educated to the maximum extent appropriate with their non-disabled peers, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities, requiring school districts to provide accommodations for students with disabilities.

The use of telemedicine is proving to be a viable alternative to providing this mandated coverage in a cost effective manner, while increasing the quality and availability of these services to students.

The new equipment in Coffee County, for example, will allow students and school employees and staff to be seen by a certified medical physician without ever having to leave the classroom or school. With over 240 doctors in the physicians’ network the school will utilize, coverage will be very complete. Statistics have shown that this practice results in a dramatic reduction of student and employee absences, benefitting not just the health of the schools, but also efficiency in working towards educational goals.

AcuteCare Telemedicine Turns 3!

This October marks the third anniversary of AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT). Over the course of its first three years, ACT has grown considerably during a period of significant change in the policy and industry of healthcare in America. The 4 Board Certified partners of ACT have retained a steady focus on their mission of filling a growing need for 24/7 neurology coverage.

Telemedicine has proven to be a burgeoning facet of the healthcare industry, with technological advancements and enhanced communications allowing providers to extend their reach over geographical boundaries to patients in need while simultaneously streamlining the healthcare delivery process and reducing associated financial and environmental costs. ACT has worked hard to stay ahead of the curve, offering the most cutting-edge solutions for saving lives in cases of neurological emergency.

Entering its fourth year of providing this expert neurological consultation via telemedicine technology to rural and underserved medical facilities throughout the Southeast, ACT looks forward to continued growth. As teleneurology continues to garner attention from hospitals as a practical and effective solution to neurologist staffing needs, the outlook for the company this year and beyond is extremely positive. “The message of ACT has really started to take hold in the healthcare community, and as our efforts for finding new hospital partners ramp up, we are optimistic that we will ultimately be able to reach even more patients with and offer them the level of care they deserve,” says Dr. Lisa Johnston, Partner, ACT.

“Following our rebrand of the company in 2011, we have stayed dedicated to our values as expert practitioners and our vision as a business,” adds Dr. Keith Sanders, Partner, ACT. “The standard of service we have been able to provide has only climbed higher. We are truly passionate about combating morbidity and mortality rates of acute stroke, right here at home in the Stroke Belt (a region of the Southeastern US with higher-than average stroke rates) and beyond.”

Hard work and diligence is paying off for the partners of ACT. As the group continues to practice neurology full time and commit themselves to reaching more patients in 2013, they hope to add to an already impressive list of achievements and accolades throughout their short history.


Opening the Dialogue to Better Care

Amidst much confusion and debate about plotting the best course towards achieving the so-called ‘triple-aim’ of increasing quality, improving patient satisfaction, and reducing costs, the healthcare community is struggling with communications amongst payers, vendors, and providers. Creating initiatives that encourage the development of more efficient, more sustainable healthcare requires the participation of all these entities in an ongoing conversation.

For physicians, making the ecosystem more intelligent is not exactly a simple proposition. Focused on delivering care, doctors typically do not have affinities for nor access to the kinds of information readily available to payers and vendors, such as performance metrics, analytics, and risk management considerations. Fostering an environment in which this data and knowledge can be openly shared is a pivotal step in helping doctors operate smarter.

As eHealth and the growth of telemedicine begin to significantly impact the delivery of care, the healthcare industry must address questions as to how physicians can better access these insights and be stimulated to embrace best practices, as well as how plan members can be similarly empowered to make better decisions. The answers come in the form of more open dialogue. Each party needs to share a similar, if not identical perspective on what constitutes quality to effectively collaborate.

With an ever-expanding arsenal of tools and knowledge at their disposal, physicians must call upon available resources in the form of industry partners to take advantage of this opportunity. The result will be a more intelligent system that benefits the entire network.