Telehealth saves Vermont VA $63,000 a patient in annual travel expenses, study finds

The study found that telemedicine resulted in an average savings of 145 miles and 142 minutes per visit.
By Jack McCarthy
02:26 PM
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VA Center, White River Junction, Vermont.

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ use of telemedicine to treat patients at its Vermont hospital at White River Junction resulted in an average travel payment savings of $18,555 per year between 2005 and 2013, according to a study published in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health.

The study found that telemedicine resulted in an average savings of 145 miles and 142 minutes per visit, resulting in the aforementioned payment reductions, while telemedicine services volume grew significantly over the study period such that by the final year the travel savings had increased to $63,804, or about 3.5 percent of the total travel pay for that year.

[Also: VA picks up $233 million from Congress to fund VistA EHR upgrades]

Authors of the report explained that the number of mental health telemedicine visits increased during the study period but remained small relative to the number of face-to-face visits. And a higher proportion of telemedicine visits involved new patients.

On a nationwide scale, the VA has taken strides to use telehealth tools for treating its patients. For example, an August 2015 study determined that older veterans with depression benefited from telemedicine talk as much as in-person therapy sessions.

That study, published in The Lancet, found that older veterans with depression benefited from telemedicine talk as much as in-person therapy sessions. With many seniors facing difficulties to getting help for depression, including mobility issues and fear of social stigma, telemedicine can increase their access to treatment, the study found.

And with the national VA healthcare system’s travel pay to patients for getting to appointments projected to cost nearly $1 billion in 2015, a 3.5 percent reduction, if achievable at scale, can yield significant savings.

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Telehealth