Telemedicine has made great recent strides in terms of greater acceptance and deployment. That said, a lot of work still needs to be done. Two recent surveys, one of tech savvy consumers and another of health care stakeholders make that case.

The first survey was done on behalf of a consumer health engagement company. It makes for sobering reading. The survey polled 500 insured consumers who are also users of mobile health applications. Some interesting findings:

  • Almost 40% have not heard of telemedicine.
  • 42% who have not used telemedicine and prefer an in-person physician visit instead.
  • 28% don’t know when it is appropriate to use telemedicine.
  • 14% don’t trust a telemedicine provider to diagnose and/or treat.
  • 14% are not sure if telemedicine services are covered by health insurance

Survey participants were also asked for which services they would consider using telemedicine:

  • 44% for follow-up care for acute illness.
  • 44% for symptom tracking/diagnosis.
  • 44% for medication management/prescription renewal.
  • 34% for follow-up care for a chronic condition.
  • 31% for remote monitoring of vital signs.
  • 24% for behavioral/mental health.

There was better news in the survey. First, 55 percent of consumers who have access to telemedicine have used it. Second, and more interestingly, 93 percent who have used telemedicine conclude that it lowered health care costs. While it is only one survey, I think the results clearly show a consumer education and exposure gap regarding telemedicine that needs to be addressed. Remember, the survey respondents were tech savvy consumers, and the high numbers of those unaware of telemedicine should be a call to action to those of us who believe in the viability of proper telemedicine.

The second recent survey I would like to discuss was conducted by a leading enterprise software company. The survey polled health care executives and health care clinicians regarding their views on the challenges and objectives of telemedicine programs. The survey paints a compelling and encouraging picture. Amongst the highlights:

  • Almost 66% of survey participants indicate that telemedicine is their top priority or one of the highest priorities for their healthcare organizations.
  • The top three telemedicine objectives are:
    • Improved patient outcomes.
    • Improved patient convenience.
    • Increasing patient engagement and satisfaction.
  • Among the most significant obstacles to telemedicine success are reimbursement, lack of integration between telemedicine and EMR systems, and determining ROI.
  • Maturity of telemedicine programs varies widely among service lines and care settings. Those settings requiring highly specialized treatment are more mature than those requiring generalized treatment.
  • Approximately a quarter of those surveyed report that ultimate accountability for telemedicine program success rests with a C-level executive.
    • Another 22% report that accountability is at the vice president level.
  • 75% report that the source of the telemedicine platform is primarily purchased or licensed from a vendor.

Based on this survey, the news from health care stakeholders is quite promising for the future of telemedicine. Most respondents view telemedicine as one of their top priorities and more than half show their commitment by making C-level executives or vice presidents accountable for telemedicine program success.

Ultimately, I think the two surveys raise interesting and conflicting perspectives. On the one hand, many health care stakeholders appear all in or thereabouts regarding telemedicine despite significant obstacles such as reimbursement. On the other, there is an unsettling consumer exposure/education gap with significant segments of consumers unaware of telemedicine. In the final analysis, consumer awareness and education will need to improve significantly to better drive telemedicine demand and growth.