AHRQ ‘evidence map’ pinpoints chronic condition telehealth, telemental health (US)

The US Government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released a final and fairly positive report analyzing telehealth effectiveness. It was a meta-review of 58 systematic research reviews on telehealth. Criteria were that the studies could examine real time or asynchronous telehealth, onsite or at distance, and that the patient interacted with healthcare providers for the purposes of treatment, management, or prevention of disease.

The abstract’s conclusions are positive for remote patient monitoring (RPM) for chronic conditions and for telemental health:

  • Positive outcomes came from the use of telehealth for several chronic conditions and for psychotherapy as part of behavioral health
  • The most consistent benefits were when telehealth was used for communication and counseling, plus remote monitoring in chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease
  • The improvements were in outcomes such as mortality, quality of life and reductions in hospital admissions

POLITICO’s Morning eHealth has additional and most interesting background. The AHRQ was tasked by two Senators, John Thune (R-SD) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) to analyze telehealth for effectiveness through a literature review and “to give a government’s view – not an industry-funded study or a poorly-conducted academic study – on what the technology could do if, for instance, Medicare paid for more of it.” The December draft seemed to be ambiguous on telehealth studies to date, citing uneven quality and the poor definition of telehealth. (For more on this, see Rene Quashie’s 10 Dec 2015 summary on the Epstein Becker Green TechHealthPerspectives blog.) The final report is far more affirmative on where positive outcomes were found (and encouraging to those who wish to broaden Medicare’s coverage of telehealth.)

There is, as in December’s draft, a call to shift research focus to:

  • Promoting broader implementation and to address barriers
  • Assessing the use and impact of telehealth in new health care organizational and payment models
  • The cases for: triage in urgent care, maternal and child health

AHRQ study–Telehealth: Mapping the Evidence for Patient Outcomes From Systematic Reviews (link to full PDF)

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