Telemedicine could be an effective cost-savings tool in bringing care to rural pediatric patients, according to the findings of a study from the University of California - Davis Health System.
Researchers at UC Davis found that telemedicine more than paid for itself compared to telephone consults, with an average saved of $4,662 per use. They looked at the "Pediatric Critical Care Telemedicine Program" at the health system, from 2003 to 2009.
The researchers compared cost of implementing and maintaining the telemedicine program to the transfer logs at the eight hospitals and emergency department visits. They looked at five symptoms: asthma, bronchiolitis, dehydration, fever and pneumonia, since they seem to be the ones that can be treated at rural hospitals via telemedicine.
They found that compared to the telephone, telemedicine helped reduce transfers between hospitals, which costs a significant amount. The overall difference in cost was 31 percent, the researchers found.
"Our previous work showed that telemedicine was good for kids, families and providers, but we didn't really address the cost issue," James Marcin, M.D., UC Davis interim head of pediatric critical care medicine, said in a statement. "Now we know, not only does it improve quality, safety and satisfaction, but it also saves money."