Thursday, September 11, 2014 Patient Support for Home-Based Telemedicine Growing but Barriers Remain More patients are willing than not to consider staying at home for video-based appointments with a health care provider, but the consumer demand for such an option still has a way to go before it could be characterized as overwhelming, according to a new study from the Mayo Clinic. In a survey of 263 patients who recently received outpatient treatment at the Mayo Clinic Center, researchers found that about 66% of respondents said that they were "somewhat likely" (28.1%) or "very likely" (38%) to accept an invitation to meet with their provider by way of video from their homes. The survey included questions about familiarity with video calls, what kinds of technology patients owned, patient assessments of the value of video appointments, and costs of travel to the local institution, among other topics. Findings were published in the September issue of Telemedicine and e-HEALTH. Not unexpectedly, researchers found a high correlation between a patient's willingness to consider a home-based video appointment and that patient's experience with video calls and the technology involved. Other drivers included age and distance from home to the health care institution—generally the younger and farther away, the more likely the patient was to consider a video appointment. Actual prevalence of the technology was less of an issue, with 75% of respondents reporting that they had a broadband Internet connection—although only 36% had a web camera. The real problem, according to authors of the research, is that patients opposed to video appointments are unlikely to change their minds without some significant work on the part of health care providers and others—and that work may have to focus on issues beyond the technology itself. "Of the 4 primary concerns to address," authors write, "3 of the 4 express concern not about logistics of the connection, privacy, or security of the medium … but about the general preferences of face-to-face over video communication. To shift perceptions about the medium may require deploying a focused communication strategy … encouraging the use of the system on a trial basis, or simply allowing technology use behavior to catch up with what technology enables." The study describes overall patient demand for video appointments as "nascent," and asserts that growth will be highly dependent on sensitivity to multiple patient factors—something that Matt Elrod, PT, DPT, MEd, NCS, senior practice specialist at APTA believes is crucial to telemedicine's success. "The technology behind telehealth is exciting and presents many opportunities for patients and providers," he said, "but the true benefits of telehealth are realized when it is used for the right patient at the right time and incorporates the patient's, wants, needs, and preferences." More resources on telehealth and physical therapy practice can be found at APTA's Telehealth webpage.