Telehealth encompasses many technologies used in patient care, and is utilized in many different ways – including home health, online urgent care visits (direct to consumer), inpatient evaluations, outpatient consultations, amongst others. Despite growing adoption of telemedicine, thousands of research studies, and hundreds of systematic reviews on the topic, more research is needed to help better identify which aspects of healthcare might benefit most (or least) by telemedicine. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently released a draft technical brief on telemedicine, in hopes to help guide future research and study.
AHRQ identified 1,305 citations about telehealth, and 44 systematic reviews. The majority of studies found that telemedicine produced positive results for the conditions studied. A large number of these studies focused on chronic conditions (diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, etc.) as well as psychotherapy and behavioral health. Multiple modalities were frequently employed, including messaging, pictures, live video, and even telehealth by mobile phone. The most positive results were noted for patients with multiple medical problems (mixed chronic conditions), diabetes, and mental health.
Areas recommended for further study were sub-specialty consultation, acute care (online urgent care visits), maternal health, and pediatrics. The brief also recommended more research into new care and payment models, such as ACOs and other patient centered medical home delivery models. Telehealth was identified as having the potential to significantly improve the ability of such organizations to better share risk and attain quality and related outcomes.
Telehealth may well be the key needed to unlock the Triple Aim (improved outcomes, decreased costs, and patient experience).
Jeremy C. Storm, D.O.
President, CMO, Co-Founder – Qvidity.com