The growing anticipation around significant adoption of telehealth services received a boost from a research report that projects a 20-fold growth in telehealth patients and a tenfold increase in the industry’s revenue.
The report trumpeting these figures, released by consulting firm IHS Technology, comes on the heels of other highly optimistic survey-based forecasts that indicate that telehealth is being embraced by both patients and medical providers.
The IHS report predicts that the number of patients globally using telehealth services of one sort or another will jump from 350,000 in 2013 to 7 million by 2018. This trend will lead to soaring industry revenue, from $440.6 million in 2013 to $4.5 billion in 2018.
Various drivers are at work in leading to the rapid adoption of telehealth by consumers and medical professionals.
Consumers want to take a more active role in their health care and see telehealth as facilitating that process, an Intel study showed. Many are already used to some level of involvement at home in monitoring their own health, and the desire to avoid a trip to a medical clinic for routine checkups or simple procedures appeals to a large percentage of patients.
For medical professionals, telehealth offers myriad benefits, from the easing of impossible schedules to directly addressing some of the most problematic medical trends faced by the profession today.
The IHS study reported “sharp decreases in [hospital] readmission rates and mortality rates, alongside increases in adherence through patient engagement.”
Reducing hospital readmissions within less than 30 days of a release from hospital care has become a major Medicare focus. Any technology that addresses this issue positively will lead to “greater reimbursement from regulatory bodies,” the report says. “As a result, providers will integrate telehealth into their health care delivery.”
IHS identified the increasing availability of mobile health hubs as critical to the industry’s growth. “The introduction of mobile health hubs is boosting the market, lowering the cost of telehealth while increasing overall value propositions,” the report said. The expansion of the wearable health technology market also will spur telehealth’s adoption.
“Amid rising expenses, an aging population and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, the health care industry must change the way it operates,” said Roeen Roashan, medical devices and digital health analyst at IHS Technology. “Telehealth represents an attractive solution to these challenges, increasing the quality of care while reducing overall health care expenditures.”