Healthcare providers are actively pursuing telemedicine advancements despite reimbursement and regulatory challenges, according to a new survey of senior healthcare executives released today by Foley & Lardner LLP.

“The reimbursement landscape is already changing, and there are many viable options for getting compensated for practicing telemedicine,” says Larry Vernaglia, chair of Foley’s Health Care Practice, in a release. “The smartest thing organizations can do now is to continue developing programs, and be ready for the law to catch up—because it will.”

The survey asked senior executives of for-profit and non-profit healthcare providers about the future of telemedicine and how their organizations are navigating regulatory and reimbursement hurdles, as well as other barriers to widespread adoption of telemedicine. Key findings in the 2014 Telemedicine Survey Report include:

Executives Are Embracing Telemedicine

Industry leaders believe telemedicine has arrived. Why? For the majority of respondents, it’s simple–they believe telemedicine will keep patients healthier.

  • Nine out of 10 report that their organizations have already begun developing or implementing a telemedicine program
  • 84% say that offering meaningful telemedicine services will be central to the success of their organizations
  • The majority of respondents already offer remote patient monitoring services (64%), store and forward technology (54%), and real-time interaction capabilities (52%)

The Affordable Care Act Is Driving Telemedicine Advancements

As healthcare providers move from a fee-for-service model to one that reimburses based on positive patient outcomes, executives face increased financial pressure to keep patients healthy. Given that the Affordable Care Act penalizes hospitals for excessive numbers of readmissions and hospital-acquired conditions, remote touch points may be more profitable.

  • 50% of respondents said the potential to improve quality of care was the primary motivator in adopting telemedicine
  • 18% ranked reaching new patients as their top motivation, demonstrating the potential for telemedicine to counsel and treat patients despite their physical location

“In the post-Obamacare paradigm, providers bear a much greater responsibility for the sustained wellness of their patients,” says Nathaniel Lacktman, a partner and healthcare lawyer at Foley. “Telemedicine offers new ways for providers to manage this new level of risk and keep their patients healthy, happy, and out of the hospital.”

Reimbursement Is the Primary Obstacle to Implementation

Leaders were less confident about telemedicine’s imminent adoption, primarily due to reimbursement issues. Regulators and insurers have made it challenging to get paid for medicine practiced outside of traditional interactions.

  • 41% of respondents said they do not get reimbursed at all for telemedicine services
  • 21% reported receiving lower rates from managed care companies for telemedicine than for in-person care
  • Nearly half (48%) expressed concern about educating physicians on telemedicine as a credible avenue for care