International markets – particularly developing countries with a need for the depth of expertise offered by U.S. health care providers – will play a significant role in driving telemedicine growth and continued health care transformation in 2016.

Arrangements between U.S. health care providers and overseas medical institutions are becoming an increasingly important pathway to new patient populations, revenue growth, and stronger global brands. The advantages fueling telemedicine’s stateside growth – lower costs, greater convenience, and fewer unnecessary emergency room visits – are equally compelling abroad. An international telemedicine model offers great benefits to rural and developing regions, where access to medical facilities is limited. The largest driver to date, however, has been a desire to tap into the deep specialty expertise of marquee U.S. health care providers.

In 2016, we expect telemedicine’s international expansion to come primarily from provider collaboration, the expansion of clinical trials overseas, and the desire to reach new patient populations. Here’s a look at each of those three drivers:

  1. International Collaboration
    Health system executives are realizing international partnerships can extend their brands around the world. For example, UCLA Health recently partnered with the city of Zhengzhou, China to establish the Zhengzhou International Telemedicine Center (ZITC). The partnership will not only allow UCLA Health to provide services in diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation, but to also exchange education, research, and training with ZITC.
  2. Global Clinical Research
    Telemedicine offers medical researchers with expanded access to large patient participant populations around the world, which can result in faster and more powerful clinical trials. The technology enables research studies to go directly to patients, decentralizing the process and giving researchers increased access to patients with rare diseases. And, whereas traditional clinical trials often experience long delays, transportation constraints, and high dropout rates, telemedicine can mitigate these problems using tools such as remote collection of biometric data, video consultations, and remote medication monitoring. The potential for growth has led Verizon to invest in network services for telemedicine clinical trials.
  3. New Patient Populations
    Expansion into remote rural areas abroad will fuel telemedicine’s growth in 2016. This will be particularly evident in countries with emerging economies and a need for access to health care services, including China, India, and South America. Western Europe will continue growth as well, particularly mHealth and wearables, but the rate will not be as significant as these other regions.

Global expansion will inevitably spawn more innovative business models that, in turn, will propel further growth in telemedicine in the coming year. International growth is among five telemedicine trends driving health care transformation in 2016 and beyond.  Next, we will cover U.S. state lawmakers driving telemedicine expansion.