Tags: telemedicine | benefit | cost

Questions Raised on 'Telemedicine'

Monday, 25 June 2012 12:48 PM

"Telemedicine" techniques can reduce deaths and help patients avoid emergency hospital care, but the cost savings are marginal compared to conventional care and may not be worth the price for the technology, new research shows.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, argues against a full-scale rollout of “telehealth” technology, which uses computers and other devices to help people with health problems live more independently at home. Such technology allows patients to measure blood pressure or blood glucose levels at home — and transmit that information electronically to a health professional — reducing the need for doctor and hospital visits.
Findings of past studies on the impact of telehealth for people with long-term conditions have been mixed. Some have suggested it can help patients better manage and understand their condition, leading to better care, but others have found negative effects.
For the latest study, an international team of researchers led by the Nuffield Trust tracked its use by 3,230 patients with long-term conditions (diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart failure) over one year.
About half the patients were given devices, taught how to monitor their condition at home, and transmit the data to health care professionals. The other half received usual care.
During the study period, fewer patients using telehealth devices were admitted to the hospital and died, compared with the others. There were also fewer emergency hospital admissions among those monitoring their conditions from home.
But the findings indicated the savings were modest and need to be balanced against the high cost of the technology.
In an editorial accompanying the study, Josip Car -- director of the Global eHealth Unit at Imperial College London – said the latest evidence doesn't warrant full scale expansion of telehealth technologies.
"We need more clarity on how to interpret the relative contributions of these elements," he said, suggesting more research be conducted on the areas where telehealth shows most promise. "There is great potential but also still much to be done."

© HealthDay

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'Telehealth' techniques can reduce deaths and help patients, but cost savings aren't worth it.
Monday, 25 June 2012 12:48 PM
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