Nearly two-thirds of health care providers rank telemedicine as a top priority in 2016, a 10% increase from last year, according to a survey.

Telemedicine software company REACH Health surveyed 390 U.S. health care professionals between November 2015 and December 2015, including physicians, nurses, and health care executives. Participants answered questions related to their objectives, challenges, telemedicine program models, and management structures, among other inquiries.

Of those polled, 96% of respondents said improving patient outcome was a top objective in developing telemedicine programs, according to the survey . Increasing patient convenience (87%) and improving patient engagement (86%) also rated highly. Other objectives included providing remote and rural patients with access to specialists (83%) and improving leverage of limited physician resources (81%). Percentages do not equal 100% because respondents could choose more than one objective.

The maturity of telemedicine programs varied widely depending on care setting. In general, settings requiring highly specialized treatment had more mature telemedicine programs than those requiring more generalized treatment. Stroke, neurology, and psychiatric/behavioral health settings had the most mature telemedicine programs, according to the survey.

Reimbursement ranked as the top barrier to telemedicine. Respondents rated private plan payment as the No. 1 challenge (38%), followed by Medicare reimbursement (36%) and Medicaid reimbursement (36%). Electronic health record incapabilities and liability risks also ranked as primary challenges.

“Telemedicine reimbursement poses the primary obstacle to success, but EMR-related challenges are persistent and widely noted in the survey,” Steve McGraw, president and CEO of REACH Health said in a statement . “There is clearly a high demand in the industry for EMR integration, specifically the two-way flow of individual data elements between telemedicine platforms and EMR systems.”

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