Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Patients like "telehealth" but does it cut costs?

Conferences with docs by phone or videoconference are becoming more popular--more than a million such consultations were reported in 2015.

The idea is that this is not only more convenient for minor ailments, but costs the system less, too.

A study of 300,000 people in a Blue Shield of CA HMO (Health Affairs) showed that patients probably would not have gone to the trouble of going to the doctor and so the tele-visit is an added cost.

A telehealth visit costs about $79, compared with $146 for an office visit.

The researchers found that only 12% of the telemedicine encounters replaced an in-person visit to a doctor or ER, while 88% represented new demand.

Mostly the virtual visits focused on respiratory ailments, sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia and tonsillitis.

Too, telehealth visits themselves may cost less than in-person, but they often result in followups, lab tests, and prescriptions, just like in-person ones do.

The costs of respiratory ailments in the group increased by $45 per user.

Of course, the honchos at telehealth companies disagree. The head of Teledoc said the numbers are outdated.

Still, to achieve real cost savings, the tele-visit must replace the in-person.

What do you think? Have you tried this? I have not, though I hate going to the doctor because my arthritis makes it so painful to gimp around.

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