Study Indicates Telemedicine Consults May Save Money For Rural Emergency Departments Compared to Telephone Consults

By Matthew J. Effken. A recent study by researchers at the University of California-Davis has determined that pediatric telemedicine consultations saved money for rural emergency departments when compared to telephone consultations. The study found that even though installation and maintenance of telemedicine systems can be costly, such costs were more than made up for by reducing the number of patient transfers between hospitals.

According to the researchers, telemedicine consultations reduced the number of patients being transferred by 31 percent when compared to telephone consultations. Especially when taking into account the reduction in transfers by air ambulance, the researchers found telemedicine consultations provided an average savings of $4,462 per use.

The researchers worked with health economists to determine that the telemedicine consultations included in the study cost an average of $3,641 per use. Their analysis takes into account the substantial investment in equipment, software and IT resources necessary for a rural hospital to support telemedicine consultations. It also includes the costs urban hospitals must pay to have subspecialists on call to provide assistance.

The data for the study came from tracking interactions between the Pediatric Critical Care Telemedicine Program at UC Davis and eight rural California emergency departments between 2003 and 2009. The researchers looked at five conditions they deemed appropriate for treatment at rural hospitals: asthma, bronchiolitis, dehydration, fever and pneumonia.

The study was published in the journal Medical Decision Making.   Additional information regarding the study is available at the following link:

© 2015 Houghton Vandenack Williams

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