From 2010 to 2011 usage of remote patient monitoring, or telehealth, increased by 22.2 percent as the number of patients enrolled worldwide reached 241,200.
However, telehealth device revenues only grew by 5.0 percent from 2010 to 2011; and 18.0 percent from 2011 to 2012. InMedica, a division of IMS Research (now part of IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS)) attributes slow revenue growth over the last year to poor economic conditions leading to restrictions in healthcare funding particularly in Europe, and ambiguity on the impact of healthcare reform and readmission penalties on telehealth in the U.S.
In the U.S., there remained considerable uncertainty on the future of the US healthcare market and the role of telehealth in this market throughout 2012. As the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began penalizing U.S. hospitals for readmissions in October 2012, many healthcare providers remained unclear on the potential impacts on their institutions and are yet to implement a post-acute care plan. A common sentiment among the providers recently interviewed by InMedica was that, if they are being paid fee-for-service, it will be difficult to justify telehealth. The more pre-paid dollars they can receive (internally and from payers), and the more focus on quality and outcome, the more they can look at implementation. Essentially, if providers can receive payment regardless of whether a patient receives services in or out of the practice, then they have an incentive to move forward. That said, many still have not found the right mix of tools and software applications.
Telehealth is projected to be increasingly incorporated into post-acute care strategies from 2013; it is listed by CMS as one of 13 possible models to reduce readmissions. In addition, as a larger number of patients enter the insurance pool, healthcare payers are projected to adopt telehealth as a population management tool to reduce in-patient costs. Consequently, InMedica forecasts that in 2013, the telehealth market will grow by 55 percent worldwide, in terms of device and service revenues.
Theo Ahadome, senior analyst with InMedica remarked that:
“Telehealth vendors and other stakeholders have an opportunity to help healthcare providers to develop an effective post-acute care strategy. For telehealth to succeed in reaching a wider audience, it needs to break out of being a niche market and become part of a comprehensive patient-care model. This is even more important in the post-acute care market where healthcare providers are more willing to pay for telehealth if it is part of a total post-acute care model. In such a situation, healthcare provider reimbursed or allocated pre-paid funds for patient outcomes irrespective of the chosen method. In some cases and for some diseases, telehealth will be part of that model.”
Of particular concern to the U.S. government is the rise chronic conditions such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and obesity in a rapidly aging population. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) indicate that 30 percent of adults 20 years of age and older (or 60 million people) are clinically obese. It is possible that such high rates of obesity could lead to a further explosion in cardiovascular diseases, back pain and diabetes prevalence, providing additional impetus for healthcare cost growth as a result.
Shane Walker, co-author of the recently released InMedica study titled Telehealth – An Analysis of Demand Dynamics – 2012 Edition further stated that:
“Despite criticism of health care reform, it is clear that the long-term goals of the CMS are to move toward greater continuity of care while reducing costs through the avoidance of unnecessary duplication of services. Of course, this will require a period of transition, which the country is in currently. The beginning of this transition is the voluntary creation of accountable care organizations (ACOs), and the implementation of appropriate incentives to foster their adoption. Behavioral change can take time, as seen over the last fifty years with anti-smoking and Physical Fitness Council campaigns, but InMedica believes that telehealth is a tool that can significantly improve clinical outcomes while also achieving the ends of government initiatives. That said, it is clear from the provider and payer interviews conducted during this research that there is still much work to be done in advancing the state of telehealth in the U.S.”