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By Monica E. Oss

September 7, 2011

In the past month, I’ve had more than one board member of a service provider organization ask the question – is telehealth really effective? The context for the question is usually in a board briefing about some of the emerging technologies and their implications for service delivery (see my recent presentation, The Changing Paradigm for Health & Human Services: The Trends Shaping Planning for Today & the Future, for an example).

My answer to this question is a careful one. First, there is no definitive large-scale study on telehealth that shows that it is, or is not, more effective that traditional face-to-face service delivery. What we have are a host of smaller, condition-specific or situation-specific studies that measure some aspect of “effectiveness” – studies that aren’t constructed in a way that lends itself to meta-analysis or some other broad generalization.

In this month’s issue of OPEN MINDS newsletter, we’ve done a summary of some of the most recent studies that look the issue of effectiveness ( Evaluating The Effectiveness Of Telehealth: How Do We Know What Works & What Doesn’t? ). However, one caveat, “effectiveness” is in the eye of the beholder, as you will see if you review the recent studies.

What we do know is that the use of telehealth is on the rise (see 70% of Health Care Organizations Use Telehealth & Telemedicine Technologies and Use of Telehealth-Enabled Home Medical Devices Climbs ). And, the effects will likely reshape service delivery (see Telemedicine, Telehealth, Telecare. . . Evolving Terminology & the State of Remote & Mobile Technologies and Telehealth As Next Paradigm Shift in Service System all members).

But how widespread the adoption of telehealth will be is dependent on the reimbursement scene (Telehealth Initiatives Funded by All Payers and Adoption Of Telehealth Slowed By Payer Reimbursement Limits ). And, the extent of reimbursement comes back to the whole concept of effectiveness (Should Effectiveness Of A Treatment Determine How Much Of It Is Covered? all members).

We’ll continue to keep you up to date on the latest studies in telehealth effectiveness. And, in the meantime, send us your questions at


Monica E. Oss
Chief Executive Officer, OPEN MINDS

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