Monday, August 24, 2009

How Big IS Telemedicine?

If I had a nickel for every time I was asked this question...

There are some interesting facts that have recently come out about the telemedicine market (explained below). However, much to the consternation of many reporters and entrepreneurs, there is no single answer to this question for four good reasons:

  1. Transparency - Telemedicine is not a separate specialty. In fact, many successful applications of telemedicine are simply folded into the normal clinical practice. A patient may come in to see a dermatologist from the waiting room or online or the doctor may have a case sent via email. Unless there is a specific billing or administrative reason the services may never be coded to reflect the modality used in delivering the service. This is probably most apparent in radiology where millions of reads are provided each year and it never matters (and is seldom tracked) whether the radiologist is next door or a thousand miles away.
  2. Multiple payers - Back to the radiology example: that read can be billed through Medicare, Medicaid, a hundred different private payers, or inside a closed system such as the U.S. Veterans Administration or another country's socialized health plan. Even if it were identified as a "remote" service, going to each payer and extracting the data would be impossible.
  3. Equipment or service? - When someone asks about the market they could be referring to how much equipment is sold, the value of the health services provided, or the revenue generated by associated vendors such as telecommunications companies.
  4. What is telemedicine? - Interactive videoconferencing, remote monitoring, consumer-based wireless health, remote interpretation of medical images and internet-based medical education are all part of telemedicine.

However, a few recent studies have revealed that we are now talking about a multi-billion dollar market with double digit growth. Here are three recent reports:

  • Wireless devices that monitor patients' condition and report the data to health care providers are expected to show a 77 percent compound annual growth rate resulting in global revenue of almost $950 million by 2014, according to a new study from ABI Research. The group also concluded that over the next five years the market for wearable wireless sensors is set to grow to more than 400 million devices by 2014. Demand will come from the professional healthcare, home healthcare and sports and fitness markets, but these markets will develop at different speeds and will support different applications. The sports and fitness market represents more than 90 percent of the market today.

  • According to a recent report from Parks Associates, the U.S. market for wireless home-based healthcare applications and services will grow at a five-year cumulative annual growth rate of over 180 percent and become a $4.4 billion industry in 2013.

  • In 2008, the global videoconferencing market grew 24% to $2.4 billion, according to Roopam Jain, a technology analyst at Frost & Sullivan. The firm forecasts the market will more than double, to reach $5.7 billion by 2013.


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    Radiology Billing and Coding