The Cost Effectiveness of Telemedicine
Telemedicine has been around since 1960. It is used to ensure that patients in rural and remote areas receive specialized care. The goal of telemedicine is to establish communications that work for medical diagnosis and treatment of patients at remote locations. Today, with rising healthcare costs, telemedicine is becoming more and more popular as a cost-saving strategy for healthcare organizations. Many countries have started to adopt telemedicine services. A study by Suzuki et al. (2016) shows how telemedicine services are expanding in various Asian countries. It cites the rapid growth of telemedicine in Thailand and Indonesia as a result of internet usage and a shortage of doctors. Several studies, such as those in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, show that telemedicine is economical and convenient. According to research conducted by Red Quill Consulting Inc., the average cost of a virtual visit is $40 to $50, while an in-person visit can cost as much as $176 per visit. The goal of telemedicine practice is not only to reduce costs but also to maintain a high level of patient care. The purpose of this blog is to explain the potential of using telemedicine in terms of reducing costs for patients and healthcare systems.
How can telemedicine reduce healthcare costs?
Telemedicine has been shown to reduce readmissions and other adverse events at a lower cost than the problem itself. Now, let’s look at the different ways telemedicine reduces costs.
- Tele-analytical services such as telepathology and teleradiology allow pooling of resources, reducing costs, and improving quality of care. Smaller facilities with low volumes can share resources via telemedicine to provide low-cost, 24/7 care. Radiology services are very expensive. However, telemedicine could lead to cost savings for the healthcare system. Medical images such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans can be securely transmitted to offshore locations for a low cost.
- Telemonitoring technology enables ambulatory monitoring of patients previously monitored in an inpatient setting. This has significantly reduced costs for healthcare providers. Vital signs (weight, heart rate, and blood pressure) can be monitored frequently using a Bluetooth or WiFi-enabled medical devices. This allows doctors to make better diagnoses at a low cost and also enables preventive health interventions by reducing the risk of serious illnesses such as heart attack and kidney failure. With the introduction of VR, the value of telemedicine has increased even further.
- Telemedicine cuts down on transportation costs for patients and doctors, as they can connect through tele-visits from wherever they are. This means that you may not need to arrange transportation to visit clinics, pharmacies, or laboratories to see a doctor. Telemedicine makes life easier by eliminating non-urgent visits to the doctor’s office and thereby saving costs.
How affordable is telemedicine?
The cost of conventional medicine is constantly increasing. From an economic point of view, using telemedicine is cost-effective in many situations. Telemedicine reduced ICU stays by 30%, according to a study published by the University of Massachusetts. This has resulted in fewer doctors, more space in intensive care units, fewer hospital stays, improved long-term outcomes, and significantly reduced healthcare costs. Using telemedicine in some areas of healthcare can be more cost-effective and affordable than others.
The most cost-effective areas include cardiology, nutrition, eating disorder treatment, mental health care, and ophthalmology. Respiratory cancer, dermatology, asthma, etc. are more utilitarian areas, so they are less beneficial. Affordably implementing such a solution is not necessarily difficult. Many clinics, large and small, are finding that using video conferencing software with their existing services, such as patient portals, is highly effective and economical. It also does an excellent job meeting all HIPAA requirements.
Telemedicine helps reduce the need for emergency medical care by enabling quick and effective access to a doctor directly from the comfort of one’s home. Given the economics of telemedicine, both doctors and patients prefer the service. In the short and long term, it helps reduce paperwork, patient management issues, and overall healthcare costs. Based on a study conducted in Japan, the most economically efficient telemedicine service is emergency radiotherapy consultation related to malignant spinal cord compression services.
Telemedicine can reduce patient transfer costs and shorten treatment decision times. Based on a report, telemedicine can also save costs in hospital services, including tele-dermatology consultations, which can save $17,160 per case per year. Overall, telemedicine has been shown to have the potential to positively impact reductions in health care costs, improved well-being, and the extension of services to remote locations without moving resources. Therefore, telemedicine should be observed across countries for its easy access and cost-effective nature.
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