Intel Survey Shows Positive Impact of Telehealth Technology

A survey sponsored by Intel indicates that 89 percent of health care decision makers believe telehealth technology will have a significant positive effect on patient care and the health care industry. However, challenges remain, including concerns about reimbursements and worry that some caregivers and patients will be reluctant to try to the new technology.

The use of video conferencing and collaboration will have a significant impact on the health care industry and on patient care over the next decade, according to a survey sponsored by Intel.

The study, presented May 18 at the American Telemedicine Association's annual meeting in San Antonio, found that 89 percent of health care decision makers surveyed said telehealth technology will transform health care in the next 10 years, with many saying it will lead to better patient care and lower costs.

However, the study also warned that a few challenges, including reimbursement issues for health care providers who adopt the technology and the concern that doctors and patients alike will have trouble using the technology, could slow adoption if left unresolved.

"The survey demonstrates the increasing need to shift from the current reactive health care system to a more proactive model that champions the patient and gives clinicians the information they need," Mariah Scott, director of sales and marketing for the Intel Digital Health Group, said in a statement.

IT vendors see the health care industry as a key market for video communications and immersive telepresence technologies. For example, Vidyo, which sells video collaboration technology, announced the availability of its VidyoHealth product May 12. The offering is designed to enable health care providers to use the Internet and other general-purpose networks to link with colleagues and patients, rather than having to rely on dedicated networks.

A host of other vendors, including Cisco Systems and Verizon, also have made pushes into this arena.

The market promises to keep growing, according to figures from research company Data Monitor, which expects the telehealth and home health monitoring space to grow from $3 billion in 2009 to about $7.7 billion by 2012.

A majority of respondents to the Intel survey said telehealth will have a significant positive impact on the care given to what is an increasingly chronically ill and aging population in the United States.

According to Intel, two-thirds of responding health care professionals are using telehealth products, and 87 percent of those are satisfied with the results. Benefits include improved patient outcomes, better doctor access to patient data and early detection of health issues.

Of those who don't use telehealth technology, half plan to implement it within the next year.

The top barrier to adoption of the technology is reimbursement, according to the Intel survey. Telehealth can reduce hospital admissions by up to 25 percent and cut costs for health care organizations, but until the reimbursement process is improved, adoption may be somewhat hindered, according to the survey. What changes to the reimbursement process need to be made weren't specified.

The other key challenge is the concern over caregiver and patient comfort in using the technology, though pilot studies have found that people have been more open to using the technology, which could allay those worries, Intel's survey said.