HIMSS Analytics recently published a new report, "Essentials Brief: Telemedicine Study" — a survey of health IT executives that finds an increase in the adoption of telemedicine solutions and services, from 54.5 percent in 2014 to 57.7 percent in 2015. Small, but sizable.

FierceHealthIT reports that the Web-based study included responses from nearly 270 executives, IT professionals, clinicians, department heads and ambulatory physicians.

According to a brief by Healthcare Dive, the study showed 70 percent of respondents who use telemedicine utilize two-way video the most commonly used form of telemedicine. Another popular communication vessel for telemedicine is through a patient portal via the Web, usually accessed through the health organization's website.

"Leveraging data from the HIMSS Analytics Database and a survey of healthcare IT leaders, the findings of this study paint an optimistic view of the U.S. telemedicine market," HIMSS writes in the report's executive summary.

One challenge identified through the research is defining telemedicine, which was recognized by survey respondents to include a wide variety of solutions — from video conferencing and remote monitoring to patient portals and even email communication.

"The term telemedicine is recognized by the survey participants to envelope a wide array of solutions," the report states. "Historically, no one solution/service has emerged as dominant in the telemedicine space but a shift has begun to occur as organizations have realized the importance of expanding their services, improving care and lowering costs."

HIMSS suggests the decision to implement telemedicine technologies by provider organizations may be driven by a need to fill gaps in patient care. The primary model or program organizations are using to achieve this is the "hub and spoke model, which leverages audio and visual communication between originating sites.

This model is supported by specific technology adoption and organizational needs identified within the study. Additionally, organizations have been leveraging their adoption and installation of patient portals to meet some of their telemedicine needs:

"Given the changing paradigm and convergence of patient engagement and empowerment; and the increased reorientation of the healthcare sector toward on-demand access, there is a need for providers to embrace multiple approaches to deploying telemedicine technology. For instance, patient portal or application-focused patient engagement, which was described as services delivered via portal with mobile or desktop access, is the second most employed model or program in use by organizations to meet their telemedicine needs."

According to the report, organizations regularly use more than one of the models, including e-visits, online consulting and remote patient monitoring. Plus, study respondents say the five-year outlook indicates a strong need by provider organizations to use telemedicine solutions/services to expand the level of specialties offered and to improve real-time communication across organizations on multiple levels.