Technology has been changing rapidly according to demands of consumers in various fields, be it Retail, Automobile or Healthcare. The tele-health industry have grown and shown the true nature about what we can achieve in healthcare, it is not a future anymore – it’s now. Well tele-health is transforming lives of patients but it has also been the reason for headache for regulators, providers and insurers.
Due to tele-health, healthcare industry transformed from volume-based business to a value-based business. Due to growing demands of consumers, healthcare providers have been forced to improve the quality of healthcare and provide greater value for money. In turn, healthcare providers have started adopting tele-health solutions to provide services at reduced costs.
Currently, tele-health market is valued at $2.78 billion in 2016 and it is poised to reach at $9.35 billion by 2021 at a CAGR of 27.5%. From market share perspective, North America will enjoy bigger chunk of the pie, followed by Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the Rest of the World (RoW).
Even from investments perspective, as of 2016, around $18.2 billion have been invested in the tele-health market and it could reach to $38 billion by 2022, according to a Zion Market Research study.
As mentioned above, tele-health market has been bifurcated into four geographies: North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the RoW. North America and Europe has been quite ahead in the race as compared to other regions mostly because of acceptability of technology among the people.
The tele-health market is driven by factors such as aging population, technological innovations, rising healthcare costs, rise in chronic diseases, rising awareness regarding remote patient monitoring. But we also need to keep in mind that there are some limitations like lack of physician support, poor cases of implementation, legal & reimbursement issues, advanced technology leading to higher costs, etc.
May be North America and Europe is ahead but APAC is quiet exciting and untapped market. According to Frost and Sullivan, APAC region will grow at 12% CAGR. Even governments are playing their role quiet efficiently by investing in infrastructure and adopting technologies such as nation-wide 3G and 4G access, developing tele-health and eHealth roadmaps and creating policies that directly or indirectly attract investment in health technology.
Although everything seems to be very rosy in APAC region, governments and market participants will have to keep in mind that many pilot projects have been failed mainly because of poor adoption, regulatory environment and lack of understanding of payment models.
The way tele-health services have grown leaps and bounds has not surprised anyone but the area or kind of service which expanded might surprise you. In the latest analysis of Medicare tele-health volumes by Advisory Board, in the following picture we can see the differences in growth rates and volumes among different tele-health services.
Specialty Tele-health Services
Specialty services contribute majorly to the volumes mainly due to its wide range of applications: inpatient and outpatient care, emergency department visits, and post-acute care consults. Considering these factors, we should expect specialty services to continue growing and maintaining volumes.
Telebehavioral Health Services
In the last six years, behavioural health grew multi-fold, may be because of less availability of behavioural health workers and the ease which tele-health can be applied to behavioural health.
The way regulators also have been addressing the behavioural health to improve telementoring and mental health parity we can say that telebehavioral health services have not yet reached its ceiling.
Virtual Chronic Disease Management
In the last few years, tele-health volumes for chronic disease management have been consistently low. Regulators will have to address problems such as medicare does not reimburse providers for services administered via telemedicine in the patient’s home.
This kind of issues largely eliminates home-based chronic disease management consultation as well as remote patient monitoring. Because of these factors virtual chronic disease management has got untapped potential which needs to be addressed.
Global Vs. Indian Tele-health Industry
We have already discussed about global tele-health market and comparing Indian market with the world especially North America would be too soon and naïve. As a starting point, Indian healthcare programs need to be more proactive rather than reactive. Most of the projects are focused on preventive intervention and patient care management in a reactive mode (when patients report problems), while less than 5% of them focus on proactive surveillance, patient support and disaster management services. Following are some of the pointers which I feel are important to address to be able to compete on world stage.
Infrastructure is major roadblock in India; over here I am referring to internet connectivity. According to International Telecommunications Union (ITU), about 60% of healthcare projects uses Satellite connectivity (384 Kbps to 512 Kbps), around 25% used ISDN (128 Kbps to dual line 256 Kbps), 8% used ADSL (256 KBPS),8% used HDSL (1 Mbps), while PSTN and wireless 2G and 3G links were used by only one project each.
Communication is one issue which will be hard to address. We have around 22 officially recognized languages and around 1600 mother tongues, so in India linguistic diversity is kind of major barrier if patient and doctor are from two different regions. There are few instances where desktop multiparty video conferencing (at least a three party system) have been with real-time involvement of human interpreters from remote areas at much lower costs and errors than translation of offline records.
From technology investment perspective, Frost and Sullivan indicate up to 5% growth in IT adoption amongst 40% Indian healthcare providers in the next two years. In the near future, IT spending will shift towards managed services with the capacity build-up of outsourced hosting, cloud computing and wireless mobile infrastructure.