AHRQ Releases Final Technical Brief of Telehealth Effectiveness

On Thursday, June 30, 2016, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) published a final Technical Brief on Telehealth: Mapping the Evidence for Patient Outcomes From Systemic Reviews.  The intent of the brief is to provide an overview of the large and disparate body of evidence about telehealth for use by decision-makers.

A draft of the Technical Brief from December, 2015 titled, Telehealth: An Evidence Map for Decisionmaking, found that it was difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of telemedicine due to varying definitions and study quality.
The Technical Brief provides more support for telemedicine and notes that there is sufficient evidence to support effectiveness of telehealth for specific uses with certain types of patients including:

  • Remote patient monitoring for patients with chronic conditions;
  • Communication and counseling for patients with chronic conditions;
  • Psychotherapy as part of behavioral health.

AHRQ notes that for the above telehealth applications, the research focus should shift to how to promote broader implementation and address barriers. Additionally, AHRQ concludes that, “The largest volume of research reported that telehealth interventions have produced positive results when used in the clinical areas of chronic conditions and behavioral health and when telehealth is used for providing communication/counseling and monitoring/management.”

HIMSS is very encouraged by the findings in the final report, as it provides a broader review of telehealth and remote patient monitoring capabilities, which is consistent with recommendations we made in a  January 2016 letter to AHRQ with telehealth coalition partners. coalition letter