Posted in EHRs

AHRQ review cites numerous "likely" benefits of telemedicine

Chris Nerney
Chris Nerney, Contributing Writer |
AHRQ review cites numerous "likely" benefits of telemedicine

Telemedicine technologies likely can improve access to care as well as clinical outcomes for acute and chronic care patients, concludes a recent review by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) of nearly 150  telemedicine studies.

“In general, the evidence supports the effectiveness of telehealth consultations,” AHRQ writes. “However, the evidence is stronger for some applications, and less strong or insufficient for others.”

Specifically, the AHRQ review of 145 telemedicine studies conducted from 1997 through November 2016 determined that:

  • Remote intensive care unit (ICU) consultations likely reduce ICU mortality and ICU length of stay (LOS)
  • Specialty telehealth consultations likely reduce the time patients spend in emergency departments
  • Remote consultations for outpatient care likely improve access and a range of clinical outcomes

Findings with lower confidence are that telehealth consultations may:

  • Reduce inpatient LOS and costs
  • Improve outcomes and reduce costs for emergency care due to fewer transfers
  • Reduce outpatient visits and costs due to travel

“Current evidence reports no difference in overall hospital LOS with remote ICUs, no difference in clinical outcomes with inpatient telehealth specialty consultations, and no difference in mortality,” the AHRQ report says, “but also no difference in harms with telestroke consultations, and no difference in satisfaction with outpatient telehealth consultations.”

The reason that AHRQ is leaning so hard on the word “likely” in its review report is that the agency believes more research on telemedicine’s impact is needed.

“Too few studies reported information on potential harms from telehealth consultations for conclusions to be drawn,” AHRQ said, adding that there is a “need for more detailed data on costs as well as outcomes when telehealth is used for consultations.”