The growing anticipation around the significant adoption of telehealth services received a boost from a research report that projects a very good 20-fold growth in telehealth patients. The report telling these figures indicates that telehealth is being embraced by patients and medical providers.

The consulting firm report by IHS Technology, predicts that the number of patients globally using telehealth services of one sort or another will jump from 350,000 in 2013 to 7 million by 2018.  

Various drivers are at work in leading to the rapid adoption of telehealth by consumers and medical professionals.

Consumers want to take a more active role in their health care and see telehealth as facilitating that process. Many people are already familiar with some level of involvement at home in monitoring their own health, and the desire to avoid a trip to a medical clinic for routine checkups or simple procedures appeals to a large percentage of patients.

For medical professionals, telehealth offers myriad benefits, from the easing of impossible schedules to directly addressing some of the most problematic medical trends faced by the profession today.

The IHS study reported “sharp decreases in [hospital] readmission rates and mortality rates, alongside increases in adherence through patient engagement.”

Reducing hospital readmissions within less than 30 days of a release from hospital care has become a major Medicare focus. Any technology that addresses this issue positively will lead to  “greater reimbursement from regulatory bodies,” the report says. “As a result, providers will integrate telehealth into their health care delivery.”

IHS identified the increasing availability of mobile health hubs as critical to the industry’s growth. “The introduction of mobile health hubs is boosting the market, lowering the cost of telehealth while increasing overall value propositions,” the report said. The expansion of the wearable health technology market also will spur telehealth’s adoption.

“Amid rising expenses, an aging population and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, the health care industry must change the way it operates,” said Roeen Roashan, medical devices and digital health analyst at IHS Technology. “Telehealth represents an attractive solution to these challenges, increasing the quality of care while reducing overall health care expenditures.”

By most accounts, telemedicine is rising in popularity among employers and health care executives — and now it looks like consumers worldwide are intrigued.

According to an Intel survey, 72 percent of consumers said they’re willing to see a doctor via telehealth video conferencing for non-urgent appointments. And half said they would trust a diagnosis delivered via video conference from their doctor.

This and other findings from Intel revealed consumers remain optimistic about health care – at least in terms of technology and innovation.

Some consumers are so optimistic about technology, in fact, that more than half believe the traditional hospital will become obsolete in the future.

These survey results, said Eric Dishman, general manager of Intel’s health and life sciences group, indicates “very high willingness of people to become part of the solution to the world’s health care problems with the aid of all sorts of technologies.”

“Most people appear to embrace a future of health care that allows them to get care outside hospital walls, lets them anonymously share their information for better outcomes, and personalizes care all the way down to an individual’s specific genetic makeup,” Dishman said.

The majority of people surveyed also believe technology innovation holds the best promise for curing fatal diseases — more than increasing the number of physicians or additional funding for research.

The study, “Intel Healthcare Innovation Barometer” was conducted across eight countries by Penn Schoen Berland in Brazil, China, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan and the United States.

Other findings from Intel include:

  • More than 70 percent of people globally are receptive to toilet sensors, prescription bottle sensors or swallowed monitors.
  • 66 percent of people say they would prefer a personalized health care regimen designed specifically for them based on their genetic profile or biology.
  • 53 percent of people say they would trust a test they personally administered as much or more than if performed by a doctor.