Telemedicine - How Cost Effective is it?
Telemedicine is becoming more mainstream as more and more employers offer this free consultation service as part of the health benefits package. But a study recently published in the journal, Health Affairs, states that telemedicine might actually be driving some costs up. Easy access and low (usually no) cost, encourages patients to seek out consultation for the common cold or high fevers - illnesses patients usually don't seek out treatment for in a typical health care scenario.
Patients who use the emergency room as primary care are not yet utilizing telemedicine which is the group in which the most cost savings will be made. Researchers suggested increasing the cost of telemedicine with patient cost-sharing, but also seeking out those patients who frequently use the ER to encourage them to use telemedicine instead. There is significant savings in telemedicine if the right balance is found. According to the study, on average, a telemedicine appointment costs about $79 compared to $146 for a doctor's visit and $1,734 for an ER visit.