Tackling value-based care is crucial with the upcoming 2030 mandate by CMS. But it can be challenging for providers to deliver equitable care while hitting value-based care goals.
A new telehealth study by the University of Texas McCombs School of Business found that virtual care did not significantly lower costs, or reduce the number of future visits to emergency rooms or specialists for circulatory, respiratory and infectious diseases.
WHY IT MATTERS
Indranil Bardhan, a professor of information, risk and operations management at UTexas, and his co-authors, Sezgin Ayabakan of Temple University and Zhiqiang ‘Eric’ Zheng of UTexas at Dallas, examined telehealth through the theory of process virtualization – replacing physical interactions with virtual ones.
Based on a study of patient visits across all hospital-based outpatient clinics in Maryland from 2012 to 2021, telehealth visits did reduce the overall number of future outpatient visits within 30 days of a telehealth encounter by 14% and saved $239 in total outpatient costs per patient, the new study found.
But for diseases of the heart or lung, for example, the virtual visits did not offer the same value.
“The effectiveness of telehealth is really a function of the type of disease that it is used to treat,” said Bardhan in Wednesday’s announcement about the study published in Information Systems Research.
By contrast, “patients with mental health, skin, metabolic and musculoskeletal diseases exhibit a significant reduction of 0.21 outpatient visits per quarter (an equivalent cost reduction of $179) when they are treated via telehealth, suggesting a substitution effect with respect to traditional clinic visits,” the authors said in the report abstract.
Bardhan said in the statement that the researchers hope their recommendations for developing telehealth programs enable more efficient use of resources “by encouraging healthcare professionals to focus telehealth on treating specific disease types and conditions where it can do the most good.”