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Three Ways Telemedicine Reduces Costs

Scott Berghoff

Written by Scott Berghoff

It seems like everything is getting more expensive. Back in 1970 the average cost of a movie ticket hovered around $1.55  and you would only spend $0.36/gallon to buy gas. Jump to 2000 and your movie ticket climbed to $5.39 and gas followed at an average of $1.51/gallon. Seventeen years on and a movie ticket went to $8.97 and gas rocketed to $2.45/gallon. Healthcare costs followed the popular trend too:

  • 1970 $74.6 Billion - 6.9% of GDP

  • 2000 $1.4 Trillion - 13.4% of GDP

  • 2017 $3.5 Trillion - 17.9% of GDP

Telemedicine has the potential to reduce the per capita cost of care, and increase the quality of care across the board. Interest in implementing telemedicine solutions in hospital and large healthcare settings is at an all-time high. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 7 million patient users used telehealth services in 2018, and by 2020, the market will grow 14.3% with a value predicted to hit $36.2 billion.

In 2011, The National Institute for Health Care Reform released a study by Anna Sommers and Peter J. Cunningham that found hospital readmissions within a month of discharge result in over $16 billion spent each year.

1. Reduced strain on the healthcare system

The use of telemedicine, such as remote patient monitoring (RPM) allows patients to recuperate from home, and avoid exposure to the stress and cost of the hospital environment. Given the high cost of providing inpatient services, it makes economic sense to move some forms of observation to an outpatient basis. This substantially reduces the costs borne by the healthcare system.  

2. Reduced cost of complications

The use of telemedicine improves patient outcomes in patients suffering from  chronic disease. One of the most prevalent chronic conditions in the US is chronic or congestive heart failure (CHF). There are over 5 million patients diagnosed with this condition and over 550,000 new patients are diagnosed each year.  Patients with CHF present with multiple issues which require consistent monitoring. RPM facilitates this by providing blood pressure, weight, implantable technology (pacemaker/defibrillator) or O2 saturation data via integration with the telemedicine platform. Having this data offers the potential to detect heart failure earlier allowing for more prompt and effective intervention. A 2010 study demonstrated RPM reduced mortality in CHF patients (17% to 47% during six to twelve months of follow-up and reduced hospitalizations by 7% to 48%).

3. Maximized Time

Telemedicine helps to reduce costs by maximizing scheduling opportunities and effectively combatting the dreaded no-show (missed appointments cost the U.S. Healthcare system more than $150B a year). Telemedicine visits normally require less time than one-on-one visits, which allows for more patient encounters compared to the number of patients seen in-office during the same time.

Costs for healthcare will likely continue to rise.  Many fingers are in the healthcare pie; there are legislators, insurers, doctors, advocates, pharmaceutical and device companies, and there is no effective way to control them all.  However, improvements in technology and automation processes have the means to lower costs in this arena. A robust telemedicine platform combines top-line technologies and the opportunity to continually improve and automate many day-to-day activities.  That is a basic recipe to lower costs.

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Published: January 29, 2019