The COVID-19 pandemic has at least one tiny silver lining: Sixty-five percent of healthcare organizations say that they have been very successful in meeting patient demand by using telehealth technology, according to a telehealth technology study from HIMSS Market and Spectrum Enterprise. Almost 94% say they will continue to invest in these platforms and services.
“The Telehealth in Overdrive: Intelligence on a Year in Adaptation” survey found that the top two telehealth concerns have changed over the course of the year-long study: The top two concerns now are patients’ lack of connective devices and “robust and reliable access” to the Internet or mobile phone service. A year ago, the top worries were lack of comprehensive reimbursement policies and lack of patient awareness and adoption.
The ratcheting up of telehealth services during the crisis is impressive, Spectrum Enterprise’s Senior Director of Vertical Programs Cliff Dinwiddie said in a press release about the telehealth technology study. “[W]hile these elevated levels of adoption will plateau to some degree, our research shows that telehealth use will only continue to grow. This is a pivotal moment for healthcare organizations to focus on their long-term strategy and the infrastructure they need to support it. It’s a missed opportunity for healthcare organizations if they are not elevating discussions with infrastructure providers to collaborate on their telehealth strategies.”
Key areas of continued investment cited by respondents include secure video platforms to connect providers and patients (53%); data connectivity at the organization such as broadband, fiber (41%); secure video platforms to connect providers with each other and staff (41%); unified communications at the provider end (35%) and managed network services such as SD-WAN, managed WiFi, managed routers and managed security (35%).
The telehealth technology study apparently was not done because of the pandemic, since it launched in September 2019. At that time, 125 healthcare organizations were surveyed. Researchers followed up twice, with 304 surveyed in August and 308 in September.
Telehealth has long been cited as a societal benefit across the telecommunications industry and it got a boost from the CARES Act. The pandemic relief legislation included $200 million for telehealth, which was awarded through the FCC.