AHRQ: Telehealth Consultations Can Improve Access, Outcomes, and Patient Satisfaction While Reducing Utilization > Hospital Association of Pennsylvania

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AHRQ: Telehealth Consultations Can Improve Access, Outcomes, and Patient Satisfaction While Reducing Utilization

May 03, 2019

Is there evidence that telehealth consultations help providers improve acute and chronic care? An extensive review and synthesis of 233 articles—culled from more than 9,000 abstracts and a review of more than 1,000 full-text research studies examining the clinical and cost effectiveness of telehealth—indicate that they do.

According to the AHRQ-funded report, Telehealth for Acute and Chrnoic Care Consultations, prepared by the Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center, published this week, consultations conducted via telehealth (also called telemedicine) in general produce either better outcomes or no difference in outcomes in the settings and clinical indications studied. For many situations, telehealth consultations are likely to improve care in a variety of important ways. For example, the report conludes that:

  • Remote intensive care unit consultations likely reduce mortality
  • Specialty telehealth consultations likely reduce patient time in the emergency department
  • Telehealth consultations in emergency services likely reduce heart attack mortality
  • Remote consultations for outpatient care likely improve access and clinical outcomes
  • Improved clinical outcomes for chronic care, psychiatric care, and wound treatment

It documents that telehealth improved access through:

  • Reductions in wait times and time to treatment
  • Increases in the number of patients receiving indicated diagnostic tests or treatment

The report identifies how telehealth reduces excess utilization with:

  • Fewer in-person specialist and hospital visits, hospitalizations, and shorter lengths of hospital stays
  • Fewer hospitalizations
  • Shorter lengths of hospital stays

It also improve efficiencies in emergency care, resulting in:

  • Improvements in appropriate triage of patients
  • Reductions in the time patients spend in emergency departments
  • Increases in appropriate transfers and admissions
  • Reductions in air transfers and referrals to higher-level care following urgent care, leading to savings

These findings are based on a full review of the available research about the effectiveness of telehealth consultations, defined as the use of telehealth to facilitate collaboration between two or more providers, often involving a specialist, or among clinical team members, across time and/or distance.

HAP and Pennsylvania hospitals continue to advocate for telemedicine as a tool for providers and consumers, encouraging Pennsylvania’s insurance community to include telemedicine in coverage options to help increase the access to and use of telemedicine.

For more information about the report, contact Sari Siegel, PhD, HAP's Vice President, Healthcare Research; for more information about Pennsylvania telehealth legislative and policy efforts, contact Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy or Kate Slatt, HAP’s senior director, innovative payment and care delivery.

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