Despite government initiatives in Europe to adopt telehealth and promising results from the UK program Whole System Demonstrator, there is much room for growth in the area of telehealth, says Theo Ahadome, Senior Analyst, Health IT; and Shane Walker, Associate Director of Consumer Health & Wellness Devices in Digital Health; InMedica. Ahadome and Walker are the co-authors of InMedica’s recent report The World Market for Telehealth – An Analysis of Demand Dynamics – 2012.
In Europe, telehealth has not reached many ambulatory care patients, but primarily is used for post-acute patients, the report found. This is partly because studies into telemedicine have shown mixed results; some have found benefits of telemedicine, while others have not demonstrated the same positive results, according to Ahadome and Walker.
The UK programme Whole System Demonstrator, said to be the world’s largest randomised control trial of telehealth, demonstrated benefits and effectiveness of telehealth. The results were very positive; as a result, other governments in Europe are launching clinical trials into the benefits of telehealth.
“Throughout Europe you have the governments funding hospitals that are doing clinical trials,” says Ahadome.
While governments are looking into telemedicine as an option to reduce costs, the demand from patients remains low, both in Europe and globally, says Walker.
“The quantified self movement is a strong movement, but it’s definitely a small movement. The demand right now is driven by athletes or someone with a chronic disease. That is the consumer right now,” Walker says.
As more younger patients get chronic diseases, more young patients will be asking for telemedicine devices, says Ahadome. The InMedica study predicts that telehealth will reach 1.8 million patients worldwide by 2017. This may sound like an impressive number, but it is important to remember that this is a small percentage of the total patient population, cautions Ahadome.
“1.8 million people is less than 1% of the patient population,” says Ahadome. “There is quite a lot of room for growth.”Camilla Andersson