News & Commentary

rEvolution Outlook: Unlocking the Value of Telehealth

February 24, 2017
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Dr. Craig Samitt, Anthem’s executive vice president and Chief Clinical Officer, recently contributed to  Health Evolution Summit’s “rEvolution Outlook” report that sought to answer one big question: How can health care stakeholders unlock the value of telehealth?

The report, based on a 2016 discussion between key industry leaders, details the current status of telehealth in health care. It notes that despite telehealth’s much lauded status as the “enabler” of the Triple Aim, the market for it has been slow to take off.

The right conditions are in place

The report notes that telehealth’s promise has been recognized long enough that both the financial conditions and attitudes about telehealth are poised for the practice to take off:

  • Most private insurers already offer some level of telehealth benefits.
  • Providers are willing to embrace telehealth, particularly when it improves their efficiency and operations.

The report also notes that consumers of all ages increasingly view convenience as more important than relationships when it comes to low-acuity health issues.

Barriers persist on both demand and supply sides

The report explains how several types of barriers have slowed telehealth’s growth so far.

  • Demand-side barriers like low consumer awareness and understanding have slowed the practice’s growth.
  • On the supply-side, barriers like the lack of integration across health care networks and an uneven regulatory terrain have also stymied the growth of telehealth.   

According to the report, the most significant barrier is the false “silver-bullet” expectation that has been pinned on telehealth. The report argues that telehealth should not be viewed as a single solution that will unlock value for the health care system, but rather as a platform through which many solutions for many scenarios can be accessed.

Solutions and a path to scale are evolving

The report offers a number of key insights on how to scale up telehealth so it can live up to its full potential:

  • Telehealth is a horizontal platform that needs to be woven into all delivery modalities.
  • A useful way to categorize telehealth solutions is provider-driven “supply” versus consumer “demand.” Each of these has its own dynamics, barriers, and opportunities.
  • There will be variability of adoption due to the complexity of populations, situations, and consumer choice.
  • Stakeholder comfort will play a significant role in adoption, and should be considered and accommodated.
  • Also critical to scale will be information flow, and ensuring these encounters be integrated into the decision-making of the entire delivery system.

Telehealth alone will not be the panacea for all the barriers to accessing health care, but the practice does have great potential and show significant promise. As the report notes, its future depends on all participants understanding the complex dynamics of each of its applications.

Read the full report

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