A review of studies of the economic benefits of various telehealth models revealed no net savings. This review included studies of rural centres with both short and long distances from tertiary centres, many sub-specialities and varying methodologies. However, studies from sites that provide care to rural centres with long travel distances in Kansas, USA and Townsville, Australia, did reveal cost savings to the health systems. These studies did not, however, include savings to the patients, so are likely to be an under representation of the true benefits.
In Kansas, the cost of outpatient consultations decreased as the services continued to grow. The Townsville study showed significant savings to the health system due to reduction in the travel and accommodation costs for patients, their escorts and specialists. Over 4.5 years, the cost of establishing and running the network was $442,276 AUD and the savings created by preventing patient and escort travel, specialist travel and by reducing aeromedical transfers was $762,394 AUD with the net savings of $320,118 AUD. As the number of patients increased, not surprisingly, the health system savings also increased. Cost neutrality was achieved when 105 patients were consulted. In smaller rural centres where the number of patients is small, sharing of the telehealth equipment by several specialities would improve cost effectiveness.
Similar findings were observed in genetic counselling, management of depression and pain in cancer, head and neck cancer and breast and head and neck multidisciplinary meetings when teleoncology was utilised.
Evidence summary and recommendation
|Cost savings have been reported for teleoncology models in various oncology subspecialties and multidisciplinary meetings.||II, IV||, , , , |
|Cost savings to the health systems can be achieved through teleoncology models when large travel distances and high patient numbers are involved.||B|
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