The rise of telemedicine represents one of the biggest shifts in healthcare delivery over the last decade—but the telemedicine changes we have seen so far are nothing compared to what we’re likely to see in 2016.
Telemedicine is on the verge of rapid, widespread growth and adoption as the forces that have fueled its rise so far—mainly the growth of value-based care and patient convenient access— continue to gain momentum. Additional drivers are poised to push telemedicine’s expansion beyond what we’ve seen to date. The global telemedicine market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 14.3% over the next five years, eventually reaching $36.2 billion, compared to $14.3 billion in 2014.
These new drivers reflect broader forces at work: advances in telemedicine technology, evolution in legislators’ and regulators’ views of telemedicine, and providers’ and insurers’ relentless efforts to provide cost-effective care with high-quality results. This is amplified by the growing demand for convenience, innovation and personalized care among healthcare consumers around the world.
Here are five categories of forces propelling telemedicine’s continued expansion in 2016.
1. Reimbursement on the rise
Reimbursement issues have often been seen as the primary barrier to telemedicine implementation. That is quickly changing. As plans find ways to get their arms around telemedicine and offer improved patient satisfaction and cost savings, they are opening doors to reimbursement options for their members.
For example, on the private side, Cigna has been covering care through telehealth provider MDLIVE for its self-insured employer customers since January 2014. UnitedHealthcare followed suit by announcing coverage for virtual visits to its self-funded employer customers, and will expand the benefit to individual and employer plans this year. Aetna, Anthem, and Humana are poised to offer comparable coverage.
On the public side, Medicare covers telehealth only in rural areas at qualifying originating sites, but adoption among various government programs is set to expand in 2016. For example, if the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015, currently making its way through the House of Representatives, becomes law, it will expand coverage to include other locations.