Telemedicine, a healthcare delivery model in which patients engage in real-time, interactive communication with providers in distant locations, was originally implemented decades ago as a way to deliver healthcare to geographically isolated patients. Its use is expanding; however, as more and more consumers look for ways to access inexpensive, 24/7 care for their medical problems. In its May 7, 2012, online issue, USA Today reported that the global telemedicine business is projected to reach $27.3 billion by 2016.
Certainly the convenience and lower copayments are motivating consumers to use telemedicine for minor health issues. And as the USA Today article notes, large insurers and employers are encouraging their members and employees to use telemedicine as a way to reduce costs.
Despite the growth in this model, is telemedicine as good as a face-to-face visit with a healthcare provider? That’s what we wanted to know.
Our latest health technology assessment evaluated the use of telemedicine in the rehabilitation setting for patients with musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, and other medical conditions. This so-called telerehabilitation has been proposed as a way to improve access to rehabilitation services, which can be hindered by cost, distance, or cognitive or mobility issues. We also evaluated the use of telerehabilitation after stroke in a previous health technology assessment.
We answered these questions in our reports:
- Is telerehabilitation effective and comparable with face-to-face methods?
- Is telerehabilitation safe?
- Have definitive patient selection criteria been established for telerehabilitation?
We found that the main focus of research on telerehabilitation has been on developing new devices and equipment rather than on evaluating actual telerehabilitation protocols. The emphasis on developing technology for telerehabilitation may indicate a trend toward increased home-based care or a belief that home-based care will increase.
Hayes clients can access both telerehabilitation reports, along with the Hayes Rating applied to this technology, through our Knowledge Center. If you are not a Hayes client, but would like to purchase a single copy of either report, please contact us.