MLTCN January 2019, page 12, Technology

Despite laws passed in 32 states requiring health insurance coverage and payments to virtual medical providers, most American adults still receive care from physicians in person rather than via remote technology, according to a research letter published in the November JAMA

The analysis examined trends of telemedicine uptake in a large commercially insured population between 2005 and 2017. Findings showed that annual telemedicine visits increased from 206 in 2005 to more than 202,000 visits in 2017. Much of the increase happened in the last two years, with an average annual growth rate of 261% between 2015 and 2017, compared to an average 52% growth rate between 2005 and 2014.

This substantial recent increase could indicate that the future of telehealth in all specialty care areas, including long-term care, will continue to grow, says lead author Michael Barnett, M.D., of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“If the growth rates we are observing continue, in a decade telemedicine will be seen as quite common,” he said.

Yet while industry leaders have often touted telemedicine as a solution for reaching patients in rural locations or areas with a shortage of trained professionals, this study showed that 83% of the most recent telehealth users were urban residents. Data did show that telemedicine uptake increased where there was a lack of psychiatrists.