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Why telehealth does not always save money for the health system

Why telehealth does not always save money for the health system This study aims to determine elements of telehealth that have the potential to increase costs for the health system in the short to medium term.Design/methodology/approachA search of PubMed, EMBASE and Scopus databases was performed in May 2018 using broad terms for telehealth and economics. Articles were included if they identified and explained reasons for an increase in cost for telehealth services. Studies were categorised by economic analysis type for data extraction and descriptive synthesis.FindingsFourteen studies met inclusion criteria and were included in the review. These studies identified that increased health system costs were due to implementation costs (e.g. for equipment, software or staff training), increased use of other healthcare services (e.g. pharmaceutical services) and ongoing service costs (including staff salaries) resulting from telehealth being additive to traditional service (e.g. increased frequency of contact).Originality/valueTelehealth is often assumed to be a cost-effective method of delivering healthcare, even to the point where direct cost savings are expected by decision makers as a result of implementation. However, this investigation suggests it does not routinely reduce costs for the health system and can actually increase costs at both implementation and ongoing service delivery stages. Health services considering implementing telehealth should be motivated by benefits other than cost reduction such as improved accessibility, greater patient centricity and societal cost–benefit. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Health Organisation and Management Emerald Publishing

Why telehealth does not always save money for the health system

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References (49)

Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
1477-7266
DOI
10.1108/jhom-04-2020-0159
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This study aims to determine elements of telehealth that have the potential to increase costs for the health system in the short to medium term.Design/methodology/approachA search of PubMed, EMBASE and Scopus databases was performed in May 2018 using broad terms for telehealth and economics. Articles were included if they identified and explained reasons for an increase in cost for telehealth services. Studies were categorised by economic analysis type for data extraction and descriptive synthesis.FindingsFourteen studies met inclusion criteria and were included in the review. These studies identified that increased health system costs were due to implementation costs (e.g. for equipment, software or staff training), increased use of other healthcare services (e.g. pharmaceutical services) and ongoing service costs (including staff salaries) resulting from telehealth being additive to traditional service (e.g. increased frequency of contact).Originality/valueTelehealth is often assumed to be a cost-effective method of delivering healthcare, even to the point where direct cost savings are expected by decision makers as a result of implementation. However, this investigation suggests it does not routinely reduce costs for the health system and can actually increase costs at both implementation and ongoing service delivery stages. Health services considering implementing telehealth should be motivated by benefits other than cost reduction such as improved accessibility, greater patient centricity and societal cost–benefit.

Journal

Journal of Health Organisation and ManagementEmerald Publishing

Published: Oct 8, 2021

Keywords: Economics; Health services; Cost analysis; Technology-led strategy; Telehealth; Review

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