Research suggests link between hospital performance and telehealth adoption

New data released by IBM Watson Health and the ATA

New data released by IBM Watson Health and the ATA (American Telemedicine Association) shows a correlation between hospital performance and the adoption of telehealth strategies in care delivery. This data is part of the IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals® 2019 study1 identifying the U.S. hospitals with the highest balanced performance in quality, financial, operational and patient satisfaction measures.


IBM Watson Health and ATA collaborated to evaluate the relationship between telehealth and hospital performance, analyzing 2,782 U.S. hospitals in the 100 Top Hospitals study. The data shows statistically significant correlations between the adoption of telehealth and risk-adjusted mortality rates (8.3 percentile points better), as well as complication rates (6.4 percentile points better).


Researchers examined the relationship between hospital performance and telehealth adoption across five different categories of hospitals: major teaching, teaching, small community, medium community and large community. There was some variation by hospital class, but across all categories the data shows higher performing hospitals are more likely to use telehealth.


Telehealth is gaining traction


Telehealth includes a broad array of services and technologies – including remote patient monitoring, mobile health, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality and behavioral economics – that are transforming the way providers deliver care.


Data is increasingly driving health leaders’ decisions as hospitals move from fee-for-service to value-based care models. There is mounting evidence that telehealth helps increase value, improve patient convenience and address physician burnout2,3.


According to the American Hospital Association, the number of hospitals fully or partially implementing computerized telehealth systems increased from 35% in 2010 to 76% in 2017.4 Possible factors driving this adoption may include a shortage of healthcare providers, growing need for chronic care management, shifting consumer expectations and the escalating cost of care.5 Perhaps most notably, consumers are driving demand for telehealth as they seek more affordable, convenient options for care. A Rock Health survey found that several telehealth channels have shown increased adoption between 2015 and 2018. Among those consumers surveyed, live video visits increased from 7% to 34%, live phone visits from 48% to 64% and email visits increased from 28% to 53%.6


While lack of reimbursement may have worked against the adoption trend, The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has created new opportunities for telehealth reimbursement effective in 2019.These changes offer new options for telehealth reimbursement; making providers aware of them is important to promoting adoption.7


Further exploration ahead


The correlation between telehealth adoption and high performance is strong, and IBM Watson Health and ATA plan to conduct additional quantitative and qualitative research to better understand how telehealth services are deployed in successful organizations. The goal is to deliver insights to inform the many opportunities ahead for telehealth to transform all aspects of care delivery.


Read more about the correlation between hospital performance and the adoption of telehealth strategies



1. Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals 2019 Study Overview (
2. Ward MM, Merchant KAS, Carter KD, Zhu X, Ullrich F, Wittrock A, Bell A. Use of Telemedicine For ED Physician Coverage In Critical Access Hospitals Increased After CMS Policy Clarification. Health Aff (Millwood). 2018 Dec;37(12):2037-2044. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2018.05103.
3. Hofmeyer J, Leider JP, Satorius J, Tanenbaum E, Basel D, Knudson A. Implementation of Telemedicine Consultation to Assess Unplanned Transfers in Rural Long-Term Care Facilities, 2012-2015: A Pilot Study. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016 Nov 1;17(11):1006-1010. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2016.06.014. Epub 2016 Jul 28.
4. American Hospital Association, Fact Sheet: Telehealth, February 2019 ( © Used with permission of American Hospital Association.
5. American Telemedicine Association Telehealth Basics
6. Rock Health Digital Consumer Adoption Survey of 4,000 consumers
7. Survey from Reaction Data, January 2019

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