UK study: Telehealth not cost effective

Expenses add up to $140,000 more than standard care

With the recent push toward telehealth as a way to expand care and reduce overall expenditures, a new UK study calls into question the cost efficacy of telehealth, finding that overall remote monitoring comes with a bigger price tag and may not be worth it. 

The study, conducted by researchers at the London School of Economics, found the cost per quality adjusted life year, a standard metric of quality of life and quantity, was nearly $140,000 more than the cost of standard care. This sum exceeds the cost effectiveness threshold of $45,600 established by the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Even leaving out project management costs, telehealth reached a $120,000 price tag.  
 
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"Telehealth does not seem to be a cost effective addition to standard support and treatment," researchers concluded in the study. 
 
According to findings, even if the price of telehealth equipment were to drop 80 percent, estimated means costs per year would still be slightly higher than the cost of standard care. 
 
"We have got to find ways of better adjusting the equipment to suit the circumstances of the individual patient," said Martin Knapp, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics and coauthor of the study, in an interview with Reuters. "Just at the moment we don't find the advantage that people had hoped for."
 
[See also: Georgia to expand telemedicine statewide.]
 
The study examined more than 3,200 patients with longterm conditions, including heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes. One group received telehealth care and the other group received standard care for 1.5 years. 
 
Despite these findings, the telehealth market has experienced explosive growth in the past few years, poised to reach nearly $6.3 billion by 2020, according to InMedica researchers. In 2013 alone, the market is expected to grow by 55 percent. 

Topics: Telehealth