ROI in telemedicine and telehealth? Outlook unclear.

ATA 2013’s final ‘industry executive session’, presented at the late hour when most attendees are daydreaming about a comfy chair and a solid drink, tackled one of the thornier underlying questions beleaguering health tech: return on investment (ROI). Providers want hard numbers, but even that definition is…indefinite. Is it data? Is it outcomes? Is it savings? Is it reduction in spending? For two systems or populations, it can be reducing 30-day same cause readmissions for one provider or improved outcomes in home care for another, and the results are not analogous nor even cause-and-effect. As Eric Wicklund from mHIMSS put it, “that’s the challenge, and it was the primary focus of this year’s ATA conference. The pilots are gone, the possibilities and proposals are old. It’s time to target the telemedicine and mHealth programs that are working and to explain why they are…” As GlobalMed’s Roger Downey less delicately put it, “It’s like pinning Jell-O to a wall”–but getting specific as to what should be done in the market helps. Not quite as blithe as the headline. ROI? To some of the industry’s top vendors, that’s just three letters.

Of course, EHR implementation continues to be the Rodney Dangerfield of health tech, with HITECH Act ‘Meaningful Use’ interoperability goals and patient platforms only spottily achieved despite years of generous past, present and future incentive payments. Yet one ATA presenter seriously advocated the addition of telehealth/telemedicine to MU standards, recommended that Health and Human Services become the authority and to add panels for Federal standards and policy in telemedicine as there are for health IT. Adding telehealth and telemedicine to the MU scramble will surely speed implementation ;-) (See above) Why not MU for telemedicine? (HealthcareITNews)