By Joel E. Barthelemy
Many healthcare organizations (HCOs) have rushed to implement telehealth programs in response to COVID-19. But do the number of virtual consults translate to revenue? Best to ask providers who have been early adopters of telehealth (pre-COVID) as they are most certainly reaping the financial benefits of these programs. Following are just five case examples.
Copper Queen Community Hospital
Bisbee’s Copper Queen Community Hospital got a boost to their financial health – thanks to telemedicine. The first program, telestroke, was implemented in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. Copper Queen CEO Jim Dickson’s forward-thinking vision allowed the hospital to add telecardiology, teleneurology, teleburn and telepediatrics, among other programs. The telemedicine program increased revenue by keeping patients local and has saved the small hospital significant money with their telecardiology program alone having saved more than $1.4 million in its first six months.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) operates more than 30 state prison facilities, most in remote areas. Transporting inmates out of the prison to a hospital or physician’s office presents considerable security risks and expense — each one-way trip costs roughly $350. Since beginning its corrections telemedicine program, TDCJ has reduced unnecessary medical tests and transfers to outside medical facilities; it’s also boosted preventive care and successfully weeded out offenders who fake an illness or injury. 85 percent of Texas inmates stayed at the prison for their healthcare consultation and overall this has saved the TDCJ $780 million over 14 years, with $25 million in transportation costs alone.
California Correctional Health Care Services
In 2010, California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) Telemedicine Services (TMS) launched its virtual health program to provide better healthcare to inmates and reduce visits to outside hospitals. Today the prison system can remotely connect inmates to primary care and more than 30 medical specialties. The correctional system has increased public safety and decreased medical transportation costs, saving on healthcare and transportation costs, including $25 million in 2017-2018.
Because many veterans live in rural areas, they often travel long distances for medical appointments – a major expense for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Veterans Administration (VA) launched telemedicine programs across the country using innovative virtual healthcare delivery solutions. In 2016, about 700,000 of America’s 22 million veterans used VA telehealth services. By implementing telehealth at 150 medical centers and 800 outpatient clinics, the VA’s National Telemental Health Center provides veterans with access to medical experts. Teleaudiology is another successful VA program. The VA now uses virtual care across many disciplines, saving an estimated $6,500 per patient by expanding care access and decreasing hospitalizations in these areas: 40 percent reduction for mental health patients, 25-30 percent reduction for heart failure and hypertension, 20 percent reduction for diabetes and COPD.
Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein and Petrobras
Air transport costs can add thousands of dollars to an already high medical bill. Brazilian petroleum giant Petrobras uses an enterprise-wide telemedicine system to provide virtual care to their oil production workers off the coast of Brazil. Petrobras works with Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, a teaching hospital in Sao Paolo, to provide remote care to workers on five production platforms. In one year, the hospital conducted 965 telemedicine visits using innovative virtual healthcare solutions. 93.2 percent of those visits led to patient discharge often avoiding costly helicopter evacuations. Each helicopter evacuation costs roughly R$10,000-R$15,000 Brazilian reals, or $2500-$3750 USD. 6.8 percent of visits required evacuations, but 71.4 percent were able to take non-urgent flights.
Reaping the Rewards
As technology continues to intersect with medicine, and medical systems search for new innovations to reduce rising costs, many healthcare providers will soon be evaluating the ROI from their telehealth programs. Given the countless benefits to virtual healthcare, telehealth programs will likely continue to flourish in a post-COVID world, allowing healthcare providers to reach more patients than ever before.
About the author
Joel E. Barthelemy is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Scottsdale-based GlobalMed, an international provider of virtual care solutions. With over 30 million consults delivered in 60 countries and specializing in both federal and commercial spaces, GlobalMed’s telemedicine platform is used worldwide from the Department of Veteran Affairs and White House Medical Unit to rural hospitals and villages in Africa, South America and South East Asia.