About a third of healthcare providers are using remote patient monitoring and video-based "Virtual Care" services to improve patient engagement and access to care and more of these programs are likely to come, according to a survey commissioned by KPMG LLP, the U.S. tax, audit and advisory firm.
"We are seeing a strategic shift in how providers are thinking about investment in digital health capabilities including virtual health platforms, enhanced portals and web interactions as well as scheduling and referral management tools to improve patient experience, increase access to care and provide continuity of care," said Michael Beaty, a principal at KPMG's Healthcare & Life Sciences Practice.
Technology can remove the constraint of geography in healthcare, improving patient engagement, increasing convenience, and providing a higher quality treatment to remote areas. Despite being used interchangeably, telemedicine connects the medical specialist-to-primary care or emergency department clinicians through technology. Telehealth connects clinicians directly with patients in their home, on mobile devices, or in community locations, such as retail pharmacies or employer health stations.
Approximately 31 percent of healthcare organizations presently use video-based services and 34 percent offer remote patient monitoring, the survey conducted by HIMSS Analytics found. Expansion plans for these services could drive future use with another 44 percent seeing video-based services and 48 percent planning for remote patient monitoring, the survey found.
About half of providers said they had clinician-to-clinician consults or continuous monitoring through tele-stroke or tele-ICU offerings. The survey found some variance in the pace of adoption of Virtual Care, but three-quarters of providers have some form of telemedicine or telehealth offering but only a fraction call their program "advanced."
Challenges in virtual care
About a quarter of survey respondents said "maintaining a sustainable business and/or financial model" was the biggest challenge, followed by adoption issues with clinicians (17 percent), defining a strategy to implement Virtual Care (12.2 percent), and regulatory compliance and risk/liability concerns (12.2 percent).
"The business case for implementing a Virtual Care program is improving as healthcare evolves toward value-based care incentives from limited fee-for-service reimbursements," said Dr. Richard Bakalar, KPMG managing director and member of the firm's Global Healthcare Center of Excellence. "It's more efficient for high cost and limited clinical staff as well as other onsite resources, while making it more convenient and timely for patients to receive their care."
About the KPMG Digital Health Pulse 2017
The KPMG survey, conducted by HIMSS Analytics from Feb. 15 - March 17, 2017, asked 147 healthcare executives about the state of adoption for virtual care services and explored the top challenges hospitals and healthcare systems face in digital health. Respondents were comprised of the C-suite, IT, and clinical leaders.