70% of Chronic Patients Would Be Willing to Use Telemedicine
Seventy percent of patients and 80 percent of health professionals would be willing to use telemedicine if it were available to them, according to a report prepared by IESE Business School and Telefónica.
This is the first study of its kind in Spain and reflects the views of almost 1,800 people, including chronic patients (hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD) and medical professionals across Spain in both the public and private sectors.
Telemedicine or Remote Patient Management (RPM) is a system that, through the use of technology, allows patients to monitor their health from home and share the results in real time with their doctors.
Currently, only a small group of professionals (between 3% and 11%) and patients (7%) frequently use telemedicine systems, although they perceive many potential benefits in its use. The main benefits are associated with improved quality of care, early detection of changes in chronic conditions and patients taking more responsibility for their own care, among others.
Although health professionals are quite familiar with the term RPM, only a small percentage knows exactly what it is and its current uses, with doctors being the least informed group (31%). Knowledge was even lower in the private sector.
As for the benefits, nearly nine out of 10 professionals feel the RPM helps improve the quality of care by encouraging more chronic patients to take care of their health and detect early changes in their conditions. RPM also reduces crowding at hospitals and routine patient visits. Patients, meanwhile, also note that it is a very useful technology that saves time and hospital visits.
However, the RPM system also raises concern among both groups. The lack of patient access to technology and lack of technological training is a major concern for 80% of health professionals, as well as a reduction in personal contact with patients. This lack of contact with physicians is also the main concern of patients, although most would be comfortable using videoconferencing. On average, only 16% of patients surveyed said they would refuse to use the system if it were offered.
Another major finding of the study, and something that both patients and professionals coincided on, is that - although they are overwhelmingly in favour of using RPM system - more information needs to be provided to facilitate implementation. Another key to its success would be doctors, since they are a credible source for patients and would help them get started in the system.
Doing more with less
Based on these findings, the study offers several recommendations for the effective introduction of telemedicine at a time like now. The first step is to provide clear, relevant and transparent access to the RPM system. This would serve to publicize the results of successful experiences in different regions and sectors, which would help promote use. In such an information campaign, the role of the Ministry of Health as a credible and trusted source would be important.
"There are several studies that show it is possible to improve the healthcare experience for patients and reduce costs through the use of RPM systems. But this requires the cooperation of the various stakeholders in the health sector and their commitment to develop system applications," said Jaume Ribera, IESE professor.
The study also reflects important differences among patients and areas that need to be addressed. When informing the public about RPM systems, those who are less familiar with the term should be focused upon: physicians, especially in the private sector, patients with hypertension and diabetes, patients with lower income or those living in the centre (except Madrid), northwest and eastern regions of Spain.
Moreover, the promotion of telemedicine should begin with those groups most likely to use it: patients with COPD and heart disease, those with higher incomes and those living in southern and north-eastern Spain and Madrid. With respect to professionals, promotion should begin among public sector professionals, who are less reluctant to its application than the private sector, if it were available.