Telemedicine Adoption Continues Growth in 2016 and Beyond

Brendan FitzGerald    2 years ago

“Creativity is just connecting things.” – Steve Jobs

In the field of telemedicine, new healthcare IT innovation is bringing providers and patients together in ways that were unheard of even a decade ago, bringing people together with the goal of providing expanded access to better care.

HIMSS Analytics recently released its updated Essentials Brief: 2016 Telemedicine Study, an annual study on the state of the U.S. hospital telemedicine market. Essentials Briefs are in-depth market research studies focused on identifying salient topics in the healthcare IT space that highlight mind share, market share and market opportunity of specific healthcare software technologies.

What is telemedicine?

In the Essentials Brief, telemedicine is defined as the transfer of medical information via telecommunication (both synchronous and asynchronous) technology or specially designed medical devices for the purpose of delivering healthcare services and clinical information.

Adoption of telemedicine technology has increased by roughly 3.5 percent per year from 54.5 percent in 2014 to 61.3 percent in 2016 to date. Adoption increases continue to be relatively small, but the upward trajectory indicates that organizations are coming to terms with the need to employ telemedicine technologies to better serve patients.

How hospitals are utilizing telemedicine

The most popular model continues to be hub and spoke, where several smaller “spoke” hospitals are connected to one or more “hub” hospitals through formal agreements to engage in telemedicine consultation. This model also allows for audio and visual capabilities between originating sites. Given the gradual ease of reimbursement restrictions, two-way video/webcam continues to be the most widely used technology—increasing to 72 percent from nearly 70 percent a year ago. The study segments the different users (physician to physician, physician to patient) and platforms (desktop/mobile) of two-way video/webcam to provide additional detail on how this technology is being used.

That said, the telemedicine market is complex, with new technologies and vendors emerging every day, it seems. As the market continues to grow and mature, organizations will have access to even more tools suited to meet their patient needs.

According to the latest HIMSS Analytics Essentials Brief, telemedicine adoption increased roughly 3.5% annually from 2014 to 2016.

The future of telemedicine

Data shows that telemedicine technology adoption will experience continued growth. HIMSS Analytics LOGIC™,  a market intelligence tool  tracking healthcare IT adoption trends--indicates the number of U.S. hospitals that have installed telemedicine technology has grown to include about 45 percent of the market. This leaves over half of U.S. hospitals (55 percent) as potential telemedicine adopters. While much of this technology is likely in use at a departmental level and not an enterprise level, it will allow for additional site growth within the installed base.  

Looking at the greenfield space in correlation to HIMSS Analytics’ EMR Adoption Model (EMRAM), roughly 55 percent of the remaining market fall within Stages 5, 6, and 7 (these are considered more technologically advanced healthcare organizations). The remaining 45 percent fall into Stages 0 through 4, and may not be at a point to incorporate telemedicine technology into their organization.

When we look at the number of hospitals with telemedicine technology in 2015 and increasing the 2016 estimate to meet the conservative 3.5 percent annual growth rate, the number of organizations with installed telemedicine technology could reach 2,547 out of 5,464 hospitals by the end of the year.  Building upon that estimate and projecting out five years HIMSS Analytics expects between 51 to 53 percent (between 2,900 to 3,000 U.S. hospitals) to have installed telemedicine technology by 2020. A 3 percent increase is significant; it demonstrates the opportunity for large growth in this burgeoning market.

HIMSS Analytics LOGIC™ indicates roughly 55% of telemedicine greenfield space in the U.S.

Looking at the greenfield space in correlation to HIMSS Analytics EMRAM model, the EMR Adoption Model that measures IT adoption and sophistication, roughly 55 percent of the remaining market fall within Stages 5, 6, and 7, which are considered more technologically advanced healthcare organizations. The remaining 45 percent fall into the lower tier, Stages 0 through 4, and may not necessarily be at a point to incorporate telemedicine technology into their organization.

Using the number of hospitals with installed telemedicine technology from HIMSS Analytics LOGIC™ in 2015 and increasing the 2016 estimate to meet the conservative 3.5 percent annual growth rate, the number of organizations with installed telemedicine technology could reach 2,547 out of 5,464 hospitals by the end of the year.  Building upon that estimate and projecting out five years HIMSS Analytics expects between 51 to 53 percent (between 2,900 to 3,000 U.S. hospitals) to have installed telemedicine technology by 2020.  As we indicated last year, a 3 percent increase is a big deal as it shows the opportunity for large growth in this burgeoning market.

Access the full 2016 Telemedicine Essential Brief for high-level insight into the latest telemedicine initiatives.