Telehealth may not be cost effective, reveals study

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The study looked at 965 patients between May 2008 and December 2009

The British Medical Journal has published a report according to which telehealth, defined as “the remote exchange of data between a patient and healthcare professional to assist in the diagnosis and management of a healthcare condition” is not cost-effective. It found that the quality of life of those using telehealth services is only slight better than those who do not use them.

The study looked at 965 patients between May 2008 and December 2009, out of which 534 had telehealth support and the rest had usual care. To measure quality of life per year, QALY (quality-adjusted life years) was used. Research found that telehealth when added to usual care was GBP 92,000 which is well above what Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) uses as a benchmark for assessing if medical interventions are worth using, which is GBP 30,000.

However, a limitation of this research was that it looked at only QALYs and didn’t consider patient outcomes. Moreover, only three diseases were incorporated in this study, while telehealth can be used for a wide range of conditions.

According to Martin Knapp, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, one of the leaders of the study: “We have got to find ways of better adjusting the equipment to suit the circumstances of the individual patient.”

The UK Government has invested billions in the ‘3millionlives project’, which aims to bring telehealth to three million people by 2017.

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