Where growth is coming in telemedicine
■ Home health care and disease monitoring are areas where physicians might find more opportunities in remote care, according to a new report.
Two of the most promising telehealth markets are ones that could have a direct impact on the physician-patient relationship.
Research from Frost & Sullivan, a global business research and consulting firm, identified the top 20 telemedicine markets in terms of size and most impact. Topping the list were home health care and disease management monitoring, and remote doctor and specialist services. Frost & Sullivan ranked the various telehealth markets using a scale of 1 to 10 that took into consideration short-term and long-term revenue opportunity, the stability of the business models and the market’s transformative potential. Home health care and remote services had overall scores of 8.5 and 7.6, respectively.
While the Frost & Sullivan report did not give specific monetary growth projections for each sector, it said the top five markets combined generate more than $1.9 billion in annual revenue. Zachary Bujnoch, senior industry analyst for Frost & Sullivan, said home health care services and remote doctor and specialists services each generate an annual revenue of between $100 million and $300 million.
A March report by the Wellesley, Mass.-based market research firm BCC Research predicted that the global telehealth market was expected to double from $11.6 billion in 2011 to about $27.3 billion in 2016. It said the “telehospital/clinic market” alone was expected to grow to $17.6 billion in 2016. The “telehome segment” was expected to reach $9.7 billion by 2016.
One of factors driving the interest in telemedicine is the estimated 30 million people who are expected to become insured beginning in 2014 due to the Affordable Care Act, according to Andrew McWilliams, who authored the BCC report. McWilliams is a partner at 43rd Parallel, a Boston-based international technology and marketing consulting firm.
Bujnoch said practices might see telehealth opportunities, as participants and investors, that will be clinically viable.
Practices may have a large number of patients who find it hard to come for a visit because of distance or physical limitations. Telemedicine visits may be a viable alternative to losing the business or having patients go without care.
The economic viability of offering these services can be harder to evaluate, as the advantage may come by way of money saved rather than earned, Bujnoch said. For example, practices that offer in-home nursing care may save money by keeping the nurses in the office monitoring patients remotely instead of spending gas money on in-home visits.
The report said the key to success in several markets has been partnerships and collaborations between companies. Bujnoch said this could play out in scenarios such as busy practices that don’t have enough physicians on staff to accommodate patient volume, The practice could contract with a third-party specialist who will provide services remotely.
“The idea of bringing specialists into a health care setting to help diagnose or just cover a night shift and things like that is very, very neat and has really exploded over the past five years as a viable option for health care providers of any kind,” Bujnoch said.