Study: Telemedicine cuts costs, wait times in pediatric sports medicine
- New research shows that using telemedicine to treat sports injuries can save patients an average of $50 in travel costs and 51 minutes in wait and visit times, MobiHealthNews reports. It also saves providers $24 per patient.
- The study — conducted by Nemours Children’s Health System and presented last week at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition — attempted to gauge telehealth’s benefits within a specific specialty, in this case sports medicine. Researchers looked at 120 patients ages 17 and under who had at least one virtual visit between September 2015 and August 2016.
- Besides shorter wait times, telehealth boosted actual time with a surgeon—to 88% of visit time versus 15% for in-person visits. Patient satisfaction was high, with 98% of patients saying they’d consider future telehealth visits and 99% saying they’d recommend the option to others.
The findings echo other studies demonstrating telehealth’s potential to expand access to care and reduce costs. Yet despite enthusiasm for telemedicine, barriers persist. Differences in state licensing requirements for telehealth providers can make it difficult to practice across state lines, and concerns about privacy protections is another challenge.
Also, not all the data are positive. In March, a study published in Health Affairs found that telehealth spending for new utilization outweighed savings from substitution in patients with acute respiratory illness. The new utilization caused a $45 increase in average annual spending for the diagnosis per telehealth user.
Still, 20.3 million U.S. children lack access to quality pediatric health care, according to the Children’s Defense Fund. Of those, 10.3 million are insured but miss routine well-child checks due to issues like transportation, costs and lack of primary care.
Telemedicine could help fill that gap, and some providers are acting on that thought.
In July, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital expanded its suite of OnDemand digital health services with a pediatric telehealth offering. The new option, Pediatric Urgent Care, is available from 6 pm to midnight seven days a week for parents who need a doctor’s advice on common conditions affecting kids, such as fever, cough, pink eye, rashes and vomiting.
As overall telehealth use continues to increase, the industry will be watching how specialties can best use the technology.