A new study in the US has found the expense of setting up the remote monitoring of intensive care patients is “substantial” but that the resulting cost saving for hospitals is “unclear”. Some hospitals are looking to employ a single specialist to remotely monitor several patients in intensive care as a cost-saving measure.
The review of eight previous studies found that the combined implementation and first year running costs for telemedicine were between US$50,000 and US$100,000 per bed. The study was conducted by Dr Gaurav Kumar, a fellow at the University of Iowa and the lead author of the study that was published in Chest journal.
“The cost of Tele-ICU program implementation is substantial and the impact of these programs on hospital costs or profits are unclear,” wrote Kumar. He added that until additional data becomes available, clinicians and hospital administrators should “carefully weigh” both clinical and economic considerations before an investment in the technology.
The UK’s Nuffield Trust recently published a study into telehealth in which it said resultant cost savings were “modest”, a similarly tepid level of enthusiasm for the technology. Unlike the new US study of intensive care patients, the Nuffield Trust study was of patients with chronic conditions. It is the first of five studies to be published in the UK looking at the same subject.
In addition, Kumar, who is affiliated to a Veterans Association (VA) hospital, found that upfront and first-years costs for telemedicine in seven VA hospitals was between US$70,000 and US$87,000 per year, effectivelye narrowing down his finding from across the US health system.