Provider-to-provider telehealth technologies could save $4.28 billion annually in healthcare costs, according to a report from the Center for Information Technology Leadership. Telehealth communications, where medical information is transmitted from one location to another, can remove geography as a barrier to care, improve quality and drastically reduce costs associated with patient visits and transports, the report found.
The center looked at three telehealth systemsstore-and-forward, real-time video and a hybrid model that combines the first two. The center found that the hybrid modelwhere patient data and images are transmitted to review at a later time, and live video feeds enable real-time conversations over long distanceswould be most effective.
To reach a total savings of $4.28 billion a year, a robust telehealth system would have to be rolled out nationally over five years to four key healthcare settings: emergency departments, correctional facilities, nursing homes and physician offices, the not-for-profit Charlestown, Mass.-based research center concluded.
Widely implementing the hybrid model among providers would reduce emergency patient transports between hospitals by 850,000, saving $537 million a year. Transports of correctional patients to ERs could be reduced by 40,000, saving $60.3 million a year. And telehealth could reduce transports between nursing homes and physician offices by 6.87 million transports a year, saving $479 million, among other costs, according to the report.
"As the fees for face-to-face provider services continue to increase, the cost-benefit picture of telehealth improveswhile bringing care to patients where they are and when they need it," Joseph Kvedar, director of the Center for Connected Health and advisory board member to the CITL, said in a written statement.
The report was funded with grants from the AT&T Center for Telehealth Research and Policy at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the O'Donnell Foundation, the AT&T Foundation and the Kempner Fund. -- by Rebecca Vesely