- Telehealth has already made promising progress and demonstrated its potential in tele-radiology and tele-pathology, while general practice and the tele-Intensive Care Unit (tele-ICU) spearhead more widespread use
- Despite telehealth’s proven benefits, policy, cultural and reimbursement issues are key challenges in accelerating its adoption as countries move towards value-based healthcare
- Limited access to high-speed broadband networks remains the biggest technological barrier to realizing telehealth solutions for disadvantaged and underserved communities
- Health systems will benefit most from the promise of system-wide telehealth for patients, as well as improved caregiver satisfaction
Amsterdam, the Netherlands – Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA), a global leader in health technology, today announced publication of the latest Future Health Index (FHI) report. ‘Telehealth: delivering value across institutional and geographical borders’ is an independent analysis, commissioned by Philips, of the roadblocks and challenges in the deployment of telehealth services around the world. The report shows that despite the ever-growing number of case studies linking telehealth to more effective care and lower costs, the adoption landscape is mixed.
Telehealth, the provision of healthcare remotely through telecommunications networks, has the potential to increase access to healthcare, drive better outcomes, reduce costs, ensure healthcare professional satisfaction, and improve the patient experience – five factors that indicate the success of value-based care systems. The latest Future Health Index report shows that connected care technology is already a reality in specific parts of the healthcare system, offering notable benefits in radiology (tele-radiology) and pathology (tele-pathology), where it allows the secure and seamless sharing of medical images for better diagnosis, treatment, follow-up and workload distribution. It is also beginning to be used in general practice (telemedicine), remote patient monitoring and the tele-Intensive Care Unit (tele-ICU).
“Telehealth is the ultimate example of connecting people, data and systems so that everyone, wherever they are in the world, can access a quality of care that enables them to live a healthy and fulfilling life,” said Jan Kimpen, Chief Medical Officer for Philips. “In radiology and pathology, especially in the diagnosis of cancer, telehealth solutions are already helping clinicians to make first-time-right diagnoses that allow patients to get the right treatment, in the right place, at the right time. At the same time, the ability to share content knowledge with colleagues anywhere in the world makes clinicians’ own lives more rewarding and satisfying. Today’s Future Health Index report goes a long way to identifying what needs to be done to make the same happen in many other areas of care where telehealth has the potential to improve the lives of patients and caregivers with sustainable solutions.”
The ‘Future Health Index: delivering value across institutional and geographical borders’ report highlights many inspiring successes in telehealth, such as its role in implementing the tele-ICU – an intensive care unit where critically ill patients, who could benefit significantly from the opportunity to detect adverse events earlier, can be remotely monitored 24/7 or on a consultative basis by clinical experts located within regional, national networks or in different time zones. However, it also reveals that the rate of adoption of telehealth solutions worldwide is still relatively slow, even in the radiology community where less than half (39%) of the radiologists surveyed stated that they use connected care technologies in their practice . This slow rate of adoption is also evidenced by World Health Organization (WHO) figures, which indicate that only 22% of countries have national telehealth policies, and by the 2018 FHI report finding that only 31% of the countries surveyed by the FHI had clearly defined rules governing the collection, protection and sharing of data. Yet these policy decisions are essential precursors to national telehealth initiatives.
In total, the report identifies five key factors that are potential, though not insurmountable, barriers to widespread telehealth adoption: outdated reimbursement and payment models, cultural attitudes, lack of financial incentives, restrictive policies, and inadequate technological infrastructures, such as broadband access. Drawing on the results of academic studies and in-depth interviews with key opinion leaders, it puts forward a set of actionable recommendations to overcome these barriers.
The report ends with a clear statement that, as with other aspects of connected care, success in telehealth will ultimately be based on the involvement of multiple actors – healthcare professionals, the general population, payers, regulators and the private sector – together with the recognition that healthcare is, at heart, a human field that depends on people.