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Monday, November 19, 2007

The Value of Provider-to-Provider Telehealth Technologies

In the last few days the Center for Information Technology Leadership has published a new 134 page report addressing this topic.

They summarise the report thus on their web site.

http://www.citl.org/research/PtoP_Telehealth.htm

The Value of Provider-to-Provider Telehealth Technologies examines the value proposition for implementing a subset of telehealth technologies: those in which providers are involved in both the near, or patient side, and the far side of the encounter.


CITL examined the overall value of three telehealth technology systems: store-and-forward, real-time video, and a hybrid model that combining the first two. The analysis looks at the cost-benefit of using telehealth technologies in four healthcare settings including:


  • Reducing emergency department transfers
  • Reducing transfers from correctional facilities to emergency departments and physician offices
  • Reducing transfers from nursing home facilities to emergency departments and physician offices
  • Replacing in-person consults with virtual consults
  • Reducing redundant and unnecessary laboratory tests

CITL projects the hybrid model to be the most cost-effective system of the three technologies. By reducing face-to-face visits and redundant and unnecessary tests alone, the hybrid system can save $3.61 billion annually. In addition, of the 142 million referral visits in the United States each year, a reduction in patient travel from mileage costs alone could save $912 million. Nationally implemented hybrid systems could save $4.28 billion annually.


In addition, the analysis examines three levels of system costs as well as a summary of other potential value of telehealth in provider-to-provider encounters, including a side analysis on avoiding patient travel.


The report was funded through the generous support of The O’Donnell Foundation, The AT&T Foundation, The Harris & Eliza Kempner Fund, and The AT&T Center for Telehealth Research and Policy at the University of Texas Medical Branch.


The full report is available for free download from the link below.


Download the Telehealth Technologies report.


The report is a useful contribution to the possible benefits that may be derived from e-Health in the telehealth arena.

What is also interesting is that it is broadly assumed in the CITL study that there will be ubiquitous Internet Access at speeds of 512 kbit/sec or more. This is probably not the case in the Australia just yet – but it would be good to see it happen ASAP.

In its Broadband Policy Labor actually mentions E-Health for the first time I have become aware of.

Page 9 has the following (agreeing there are real benefits to be had):

“E-health

Broadband in e-health offers the potential for a range of cost savings and service improvements to Australian citizens. Services like tele-radiology, tele-psychiatry and remote patient monitoring are already being utilised in Australia, however, increased access to true broadband will significantly increase the potential of these services.

The Centre for Online Health at the University of Queensland has identified a range of e-health services that can increase access to services while also reducing costs. The Centre for Online Health has already identified opportunities in the areas of telepaediatrics, neo-natal patient assessment, teledermatology and tele-homecare for chronic disease management.

By enabling health care services to be delivered into the home, e-health has the potential to significantly improve access to health care services to Australians living in rural and regional areas as well as those Australians who find it difficult to leave their homes (eg the elderly and disabled).

There are health workforce shortages in many rural and regional communities in Australia. E-health has the potential to alleviate some of the difficulties caused by these workforce shortages, through allowing doctor-patient teleconferencing, and in particular by enabling rural GPs to case conference with specialists located in metropolitan areas. For patients in rural areas, e-health can reduce the burden of having to travel long distances to see specialists.”

I can find no match for the term e-Health on the Liberal Party site (if there is a policy can some-one let me know).

Given the somewhat confused Liberal Party broadband strategy – (a mix of fibre, ADSL2+, WiMAX, Satellite etc) I think I prefer the more focussed and funded Labor approach to get the bandwidth available to make the benefits real. We will know in a week from now!

The take home message here is that with decent connectivity there is the possibility of considerable economic and patient benefit from a number of different applications.

I hope whoever gets in at the upcoming election takes notice and moves on the opportunity CITL have identified.

David.

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