The use of telehealth services is expanding rapidly – driven both by patient demand and provider-to-provider interactions. Over 800,000 web-based clinical visits were made in 2015. It is predicted that there will be 7 million telehealth encounters of all types by 2018.
As fast as this industry segment is growing, there are few performance benchmarks, thresholds, and measurements. There is a need for shared expectations for safe prescribing, uniform evaluations of effectiveness, and agreed upon professional practice compliance standards. Telehealth opponents fear lower quality of care, lack of continuity, and privacy risks; thus telehealth stakeholders are seeking pathways to greater acceptance by policy-makers and payers. Advocates say telehealth makes geography irrelevant.
In addition to expanding consumer access, telehealth brings the promise of more effective and efficient use of resources in both primary and specialty care. The conversation surrounding added enhancements in care delivery through technology-enabled practice includes ways to address not only consumer protections, but also improving patient-provider communications, safe medication management, patient participation in self-management, and coordination of care.