Study Questions Telehealth’s Cost Effectiveness

Telehealth has been thought of as a means to reduce costs.  A new study conducted by researchers at the London School of Economics, however, is casting some doubt on this assumption.

The study found the cost per quality adjusted life year, a standard measure in this kind of analysis, was $140,000 more than the cost of standard care. As such, the researchers pegged the probability of telehealth being cost effective at only 11 per cent.

"Telehealth does not seem to be a cost effective addition to standard support and treatment," researchers concluded in the study. 

According to findings, even if the price of telehealth equipment were to drop 80 percent, estimated costs would still be slightly higher than the costs of standard care. 

"We have got to find ways of better adjusting the equipment to suit the circumstances of the individual patient," said Martin Knapp, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics and coauthor of the study, in an interview with Reuters. "Just at the moment we don't find the advantage that people had hoped for."

The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, examined more than 3,200 patients with long-term conditions, including heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes. One group received telehealth care and the other group received standard care for 1.5 years.