Empower Your Practice

Journal for Practice Managers

How Telemedicine Reduces Costs and Improves Patient Outcomes

Telehealth has the potential to reduce healthcare costs by cutting the need for in-person visits, which can be more expensive due to factors such as transportation costs, facility fees, and lost work time. It may also reduce hospital readmissions and emergency department visits, which can be costly for both patients and healthcare systems.

However, the extent of cost savings may depend on various factors, such as the type of telehealth services provided and the population being served.

Today we will unveil the advantages of virtual care in terms of cost reduction for both patients and clinicians.

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Cost-Effective Care Delivery

The term refers to the provision of healthcare services in a manner that maximizes quality of care while minimizing cost. There are various approaches to this medicine, including the use of telemedicine, care coordination, disease prevention and management, and the implementation of evidence-based practices.

Here are some examples of reducing costs via telehealth.

Reduced travel costs

Telehealth eliminates the need for patients to travel to hospitals, which can be especially beneficial for those who live in rural areas. This can save patients money on transportation costs, as well as reduce the need for time off work.

Patients can access healthcare services from the comfort of their own homes and save fuel, money for parking, and public transportation fares. Overall, telehealth has the potential to make primary care more accessible and affordable for patients who would otherwise have to travel long distances to receive it.

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Moreover, regionalization improves efficiency and quality. It means that telemedicine allows medical expertise to be everywhere.

Lower facility fees

The second point is directly connected to the previous one. In-person care visits often come with facility fees, which can add to the overall cost of healthcare. Conducting appointments from the patient's home solves this problem and has many implicit benefits:

  • Patient feels more relaxed at home, he is open to discussion. That’s a huge advantage for psychologists and speech therapists
  • The same holds true for having more control over the appointment and at the stage of scheduling
  • Low no-show rate for outpatient medicine. It's difficult to find an excuse to skip a telehealth visit
  • Reduced patient anxiety due to a shorter waiting time for a follow-up visit.

These benefits combined impact the overall state and satisfaction of a patient and the chances of him coming back and referring your services.

Fewer hospital readmissions

Telehealth can help to prevent hospital readmissions by enabling patients to receive ongoing care via remote patient monitoring. This can be especially helpful for patients with chronic conditions, who may need frequent check-ins with healthcare providers. By reducing the need for readmissions, telehealth can help reduce the cost of care.

According to UC Davis Children’s Hospital, they managed to reduce care costs up to $4662 per child/year by means of home monitoring.

Reduced emergency department visits

Systematic review helps us to understand that telehealth can provide patients with access to timely care, reducing the likelihood of emergency room visits. Such visits are often more expensive than regular ones, so reducing their frequency can help control overall healthcare costs.

For example, people with chronic diseases or heart failure, who are under the protection of Medicare, can be frequent guests in the hospital emergency room. Thanks to telecare, you can reduce the number of inpatients by using personal alarm systems.

Patients can get access to help promptly for non-urgent issues before they become more serious and require emergency care. Moreover, providers can communicate and share information more efficiently, which can reduce the risk of gaps in care and help prevent avoidable visits.

Telestroke refers to the use of telemedicine technologies to provide stroke diagnosis and treatment to patients remotely, often in areas where specialized stroke care may not be readily available.

With telestroke, healthcare providers can use video conferencing, remote monitoring, and other tools to consult with stroke specialists in real-time, allowing for timely diagnosis and treatment of stroke. It is crucial for preventing disability and death. Telestroke has the potential to improve patient outcomes by reducing the time it takes to receive specialized care, and it may also help reduce the overall cost of stroke care by reducing the need for costly in-person visits and hospitalizations.

Improved efficiency

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that telehealth can enable providers to see more patients in less time, which can help to reduce costs. It can also lessen administrative burdens by enabling providers to document and store patient information electronically using PMS.

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Another advancement of digital health programmes is centralizing health around GP. How is it happening?

Most of the online consultations with narrow specialists take place in a GP office. A GP can learn from his colleagues and hear all aspects of the process. In the future, he can use the knowledge acquired from a doctor in his short consultations, thus increasing the health outcomes of his patients.

If you run a small practice, you can reduce your costs by hiring a half-time specialist for a couple of days a week. Using telehealth functionality, he can see almost the same number of patients as for in-person visits as a full-time employee.

Here are some interesting results from the survey of our users about telemedicine's benefits:

benefits-of-telemedicine-as-a-practice

Real-world Examples of Cost Savings through Telehealth

One real-world example of how telehealth can reduce costs for payers is the Veterans Health Administration's (VA) remote patient monitoring programme.

The programme uses telehealth technologies to remotely monitor patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Patients are provided with monitoring devices, such as blood pressure monitors and glucose meters, which they use to track their health status. The data is transmitted to healthcare providers who monitor patients' conditions and provide timely interventions when necessary.

According to a study published in the Journal of Medical Economics, the VA's remote patient monitoring program saved an average of $687 per patient per month in healthcare costs, compared to traditional in-person care.

The savings were primarily due to reduced hospitalizations and emergency department visits, as well as lower overall healthcare utilization.

Another example of how telehealth can reduce costs is in the area of mental health care.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that telepsychiatry services were associated with a 38% reduction in the cost of mental health care compared to in-person care.

The study found that telepsychiatry reduced the need for inpatient care, emergency department visits, and outpatient visits, resulting in significant cost savings.

These examples demonstrate how telehealth can be an effective strategy for reducing healthcare costs. This is by improving patient outcomes, reducing hospitalizations and emergency department visits, and increasing efficiency in the delivery of care.

If you would like to learn more about implementing telemedicine services in your private practice and increasing revenue, visit our blog.

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