Telehealth saves money, reduces ED visits

Telehealth may be able to connect patients to physicians at the most urgent times—on the way to the emergency department (ED). A study published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare explored the effectiveness of using telehealth in pre-hospital emergency medical services (EMS) and the associated costs.

The study included 5,570 patients, split into intervention and control groups, who were studied for differences over the course of one year. The intervention group included a telehealth consultation between a 9-1-1 patient and EMS physician. Non-urgent patients were then scheduled and transported to a primary care physician.  

Results showed intervention cost an average of $167, which is $103 less than the control group. Researchers also found a 6.7 percent reduction in unnecessary ED visits and a 44-minute reduction in ambulance time. Overall, telehealth saved $928,000 over the course of the year in reducing ED visits.

Patient care enabled by telehealth in a pre-hospital environment is a more cost effective alternative to the traditional EMS ‘treat and transport to ED’ model,” wrote James R Langabeer, first author of the study, and colleagues.