5 Ways Telemedicine Is Driving Down Healthcare Costs

Telemedicine and mHealth have the potential to help the healthcare  system meet the Institute of Healthcare Improvement’s triple aim to  simultaneously increase the quality of care, improve the health of  populations and reduce the per capita cost of care.

“Collectively, investments in telemedicine and mHealth have great  potential to reduce healthcare system costs,” said Adam C. Powell,  president of Payer+Provider Syndicate, a consulting firm that uses  techniques from health services research to bring about change in the  health insurance and hospital industries.

[See also: Telehealth conference spotlights innovation, disruptive technology.]

A  2011 study by Anna Sommers and Peter Cunningham released by the  National Institute for Health Care Reform found that hospital  readmissions within a month of discharge have cost over $16 billion each  year. Telemedicine can be used to reduce readmissions and other adverse  events at a cost that is less than the cost of the problems themselves.

Powell recently outlined  the five ways that telemedicine can play an important role in decreasing  overall healthcare spending.

1. Use of remote analysis services. Remote  analysis services, like telepathology and teleradiology, can contribute  to lower cost and higher quality care as they enable highly trained  professionals to work as a pooled resource. Use of these remote services  enables low-volume providers to have around the clock coverage at a  lower cost. In smaller facilities, there may not be sufficient volume to  keep a pathologist or radiologist fully occupied. Telemedicine enables  fractional employment.

2. Remote monitoring technologies.  Remote monitoring technologies are enabling patients to be monitored on  an ambulatory basis when they previously may have needed to be  monitored as inpatients. Given the high cost of providing inpatient  services, though, moving some forms of observation to an outpatient  basis substantially reduces the costs borne by the healthcare system.

3. mHealth monitoring technologies. The use of  mHealth monitoring technologies reduces the cost of complications due to  chronic disease. For instance, an increase in body weight due to fluid  retention is often a sign that someone may soon need to be hospitalized  due to heart failure. Disease managers with access to daily weight  information may be able to help a person experiencing fluid retention  get the care they need before a crisis occurs. Averting crises both  improves the quality of care and lowers costs.

[See also: Telemedicine drives image sharing around the world.]

4. At-home triage services. At home triage  services facilitated by televisits with nurses and primary care  physicians reduces the unnecessary (and expensive) use of emergency room  visits.

5. Telemedicine appointments. By offering  telemedicine appointments, providers can reduce the amount of their  unused capacity that goes to waste. Many services allow providers to  start or stop accepting patients based upon their current availability.  As this capacity would otherwise not produce any revenue, providers are  able to provide remote patient visits at a rate that is lower than the  one they normally offer. This in turn reduces system costs by enabling  patients to receive care at a lower price point.

Steff Deschenes
New Media Producer for Healthcare Finance News

 

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This entry was posted in HIT PRO, Latino HIT, LISTA, mHealth, National Latino Alliance on Health Information Technology, Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), telehealth, telemedicine. Bookmark the permalink.

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