Patient readmission has been a problem for a long time, and is very costly for both patients and hospitals. Avoiding readmission is something that physicians strive for, regardless of their field of medicine. Telemedicine is one solution that can assist this effort, and virtual consultations are a tool that can be used to prevent readmission rates – which can thus reduce the cost of a patient’s care and free-up a hospital bed for another patient.
According to the Veterans Health Administration, telemedicine reduced readmission for patients with heart failure by 51%, and other illnesses by 41%. The decrease in heart failure patient readmissions, alone, yielded savings estimated to be $10 million. The University of Virginia has also shown the use of telemedicine to be successful in decreasing readmissions (by greater than 40%). Similar results were also found by Geisinger Health Plan, who reported a 44% decrease in 30 day readmissions, and 38% decrease in 90 day readmissions. During the Geisinger Health Plan study, telemedicine consults were found to save 11% of costs associated with the readmissions.
Telemedicine can also be used to reduce the length of patient admission. The VA performed a study of patients from 2004 to 2007 that indicated a reduced length of stay when telemedicine was utilized in all of the conditions studied (diabetes, depression, PTSD, and more). Reductions in length of stay ranged from 20% to 56%.
When applicable, telemedicine provides an excellent opportunity for the reduction of readmissions and the cost of care, as well as an opportunity to provide quality care in a different form and a better patient experience.