There is considerable evidence to support that telemedicine consultations reduce travel and introduce convenience from an outpatient perspective, but a recent study takes telemedicine from a matter of convenience and proves it to be a life-saving clinical measure.
The study completed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality confirms that telemedicine in certain settings has a considerable impact on patient survival. The study evaluated outcomes of telemedicine programs at the inpatient, emergency and outpatient level of care. Specifically for patients in the ICU, access to telehealth care for monitoring and ongoing intervention is indicated to have reduced patient mortality.
Telehealth Saves Lives
You read that right. Patient populations who were treated via telehealth or remote ICU care (in addition to the high-level care provided) had reduced mortality rates. Overall, the studies that followed patients at these levels of care reported a reduction of between 2 and 6 percent on average. In one instance, the hospital that implemented the remote ICU program determined that the odds of mortality were reduced by 40 percent, and the actual mortality rate was 29.5 percent lower than the estimates before the program was introduced.
These patients often participated in remote monitoring programs or had medical interventions that were assessed as necessary through a telemedicine consultation. Remote care, though not a replacement for in-person treatment for these critical patients, did assist in delivering necessary care and reducing mortality overall in the cases reviewed.
In short, telemedicine consultations and evaluation save lives in high-risk populations.
No Evidence of Harm
While there were some metrics that didn’t demonstrate substantial improvement, telemedicine consultations and remote monitoring were not indicated to cause harm in any of the instances studied by the agency. It’s possible to implement programs with inexpensive technology and cost-effective platforms. Those costs for the platforms are miniscule when compared with the potential positive outcomes, and there is no evidence of clinical or administrative harm, either.
Accelerating Step Down
Additionally, there was evidence to suggest that treatment via telemedicine consultation could also reduce length of stay at higher levels of care, such as Intensive Care Treatment. While the correlation between treatment duration and telehealth was not as substantial as the reduction in patient mortality, there is evidence to support that telemedicine also impacts the cost of care by reducing ICU time or high-intensity care duration.
Diverting unnecessary emergency care also leads to considerable cost savings in healthcare, and the study revealed a reduction in emergency room utilization when specialty care is made available through telehealth. Telemedicine care reduces the likelihood that patients will utilize the emergency room as a means to access specialty care. Further, patients who do present to the Emergency Department receive treatment faster when telehealth is an option. More patients who require treatment are admitted appropriately, while other patients are more quickly redirected to the appropriate level of care.
Reducing Hospital Costs
Possibly the most telling impact on emergency care is the reduction in costs for rural facilities by delivering specialty care through telemedicine consultation to emergency department patients. The overall cost of emergency department care was reduced in 7 emergency departments located in rural areas from $7.6 million to $1.1 million. Not only are patients getting increased access to difficult to secure specialties without considerable travel, but the hospitals are reporting a reduction in expenditure. Patients remain at local facilities rather than being transferred to distant metropolitan areas for evaluations that may not require further inpatient treatment. This enhances both the patient experience as well as the quality of care that is available.
We knew that telehealth had the potential to save money, but this shows evidence of cost reduction in the millions. More than financial, however, are the considerable impacts on patient mortality in our highest risk populations. By working with a reliable and simple-to-use platform, facilities from across the country can impact their patients directly while offering care remotely. For more information on how Mend can help you achieve this, fill out our demo request form.
For more information on the study, click here: https://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/telehealth-draft-report.pdf