The ‘Future Health Index: delivering value across institutional and geographical borders’ report highlights many inspiring successes in telehealth, such as its role in implementing the tele-ICU – an intensive care unit where critically ill patients, who could benefit significantly from the opportunity to detect adverse events earlier, can be remotely monitored 24/7 or on a consultative basis by clinical experts located within regional, national networks or in different time zones. However, it also reveals that the rate of adoption of telehealth solutions worldwide is still relatively slow, even in the radiology community where less than half (39%) of the radiologists surveyed stated that they use connected care technologies in their practice . This slow rate of adoption is also evidenced by World Health Organization (WHO) figures, which indicate that only 22% of countries have national telehealth policies, and by the 2018 FHI report finding that only 31% of the countries surveyed by the FHI had clearly defined rules governing the collection, protection and sharing of data. Yet these policy decisions are essential precursors to national telehealth initiatives.
In total, the report identifies five key factors that are potential, though not insurmountable, barriers to widespread telehealth adoption: outdated reimbursement and payment models, cultural attitudes, lack of financial incentives, restrictive policies, and inadequate technological infrastructures, such as broadband access. Drawing on the results of academic studies and in-depth interviews with key opinion leaders, it puts forward a set of actionable recommendations to overcome these barriers.
The report ends with a clear statement that, as with other aspects of connected care, success in telehealth will ultimately be based on the involvement of multiple actors – healthcare professionals, the general population, payers, regulators and the private sector – together with the recognition that healthcare is, at heart, a human field that depends on people.
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