Authors: Clarke M, Fursse J, Connolly N, Sharma U, Jones R
Telemed J E Health. 2017 Jul 18;:
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a pilot telehealth program applied to a wide population of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
DESIGN: Vital signs data were transmitted from the home of the patient on a daily basis using a patient monitoring system for review by community nurse to assist decisions on management.
SETTING: Community services for patients diagnosed with COPD.
PARTICIPANTS: Two Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) enrolled 321 patients diagnosed with COPD into the telehealth program. Two hundred twenty-seven (nâ=â227) patients having a complete baseline record of at least 88 days of continuous remote monitoring and meeting all inclusion criteria were included in the statistical analysis.
INTERVENTION: Remote monitoring.
METHODS: Resource and cost data associated with patient events (inpatient hospitalization, accident and emergency [A&E], and home visits) 12 months before, immediately before and during monitoring, equipment, start-up, and administration were collected and compared to determine cost-effectiveness of the program.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Cost-effectiveness of program, impact on resource usage, and patterns of change in resource usage.
RESULTS: Cost-effectiveness was determined for the two PCTs and the two periods before monitoring to provide four separate estimates. Cost-effectiveness had high variance both between the PCTs and between the comparison periods ranging from a saving of Â£140,800 ($176,000) to an increase of Â£9,600 ($12,000). The average saving was Â£1,023 ($1,280) per patient per year. The largest impact was on length of stay with a fall in the average length of inpatient care in PCT1 from 11.5 days in the period 12 months before monitoring to 6.5 days during monitoring, and similarly in PCT2 from 7.5 to 5.2 days.
CONCLUSION: There was a wide discrepancy in the results from the two PCTs. This places doubt on outcomes and may indicate also why the literature on cost-effectiveness remains inconclusive. The wide variance on savings and the uncertainty of monitoring cost do not allow a definitive conclusion on the cost-effectiveness as an outcome of this study. It might well be that the average saving was Â£1,023 ($1,280) per patient per year, but the variance is too great to allow this to be statistically significant. Each locality-based clinical service provides a service to achieve the same clinical goal, but it does so in significantly different ways. The introduction of remote monitoring has a profound effect on team learning and clinical practice and thus distorts the cost-effectiveness evaluation of the use of the technology. Cost-effectiveness studies will continue to struggle to provide a definitive answer because outcome measurements are too dependent on factors other than the technology.