Telehealth has yet to mature fully as a process and a system for controlling medical costs. However, the evidence documented in trials indicates that the impact of telemedicine on cost and quality of healthcare is positive. As a class of technology, telemedicine is not new; it has been around for many years, reflecting the communications technology of each era. Primitive forms existed in consultations for remote communities by telegraph and later by radio.
The interactive nature of digital has made patients more involved in treatment delivery and more responsive to playing a role in their personal health outcomes. The technology enables diagnosis, gathering clinical information, and developing treatment plans. The studies reported here show that telemedicine has produced results that are competitive with in-person care and at less cost.
The Impact Of Telemedicine On Cost of Employee Care
According to data provided by our business partner Video Medicine, Inc., virtual consultations can save an employer the following costs:
- $91 per employee visit in urgent care ($36,400 / 400 visits)
- $701 per employee visit in emergency room ($98,140 / 140 visits)
- $46 per employee with no treatment involved ($57,940 / 1,260 visits)
- $60 per work hour in primary care physician (PCP) office ($60,000 /1,000 work hours)
See a detailed breakdown in the chart below:
Global Care Management Facilitating Peer Support
Treatment of chronic illness accounts for four-fifths of current healthcare spending, as reported by the American Telemedicine Association (ATA). The cost savings possible are beginning to get attention from healthcare decision makers.
The ATA report cites a study of remote care for diabetes self-management in Cameroon, Uganda, South Africa, and Thailand to create peer support for diabetic patients and an active role in their health maintenance. The study showed that peer-support does not need to be expensive. Thailand spent $168 per capita on health care while the United States spent $7,140 and yet the Thai health system has been using this approach successfully since 1978.
Treating Underserved Populations In Texas
A study of telemedicine in Texas, conducted by the University of Texas, provides a valuable case in point. Successful treatment and care management for remote populations have applications in specialized medicine, where chronic conditions can be treated successfully with remote digital access alone for extended periods of time. The proactive involvement of patients has cut ER visits in half one year after joining the program.
This study demonstrated that one physician could treat patients across a broad region; it multiplies effectiveness in costs and still produces positive outcomes. The service interrupts geographical and socioeconomic boundaries as well as deploys medical specializations where they are otherwise in short supply.
Telemedicine Rollout In Pennsylvania
The successful trial and subsequent full-scale implementation by Tandigm Health of its program in Philadelphia and the surrounding communities shows how telemedicine can serve urban areas. The trial proved to be a cost-effective way to deliver specialist care and achieve outcomes that improve on those of traditional approaches to healthcare. In all, 350 doctors will have full access to the system for remote video appointments by the end of 2016.
The trial that preceded the Tandigm rollout showed lowered costs and increased perceived satisfaction of chronically ill patients; it validated the promise for consulting and specialist care in general medicine and will deliver savings to payers as well as higher quality service levels.
Remoteness is no longer the same as isolation; increasing integration of patient involvement, peer support and timely intervention by doctors via telemedicine changes the landscape for cost and quality of care. These studies show that telemedicine can serve as a cost-effective way to care for dispersed communities of patients.