Jeff Rowe, Editor, Future Care

Jeff Rowe is the editor of Future Care and a veteran healthcare journalist and blogger who has reported extensively on initiatives to improve the healthcare system at the local, regional and national level.

Report itemizes savings for rural regions with effective telehealth programs

March 30, 2017 AT 9:11 PM

Rural areas often trail their urban counterparts when it comes to realizing the benefits of technological developments, but a recent report points to the potential for real savings if rural providers implement telehealth services.

For example, according to the report published by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, Telehealth, hospitals in rural parts of the country could save an average of $81,000 annually. But the beneficial economic impacts would likely spread across communities in the form of reduced travel costs for patients and and increased revenues for other healthcare providers.

For the report, researchers used economic data from 24 rural hospitals in four states to calculate the potential costs savings of a telehealth program for community members and hospitals. The potential savings for hospitals come after they were able to reduce the number of full-time providers, as well as make greater use of specialists in urban areas,  while, in addition to lower travel costs, patients would see significant reductions in lost wages and the convenience of being able to stay closer to home.

Specifically, the report noted, community members would save an average of $24,000 each year in travel costs, and while saving roughly $17,000 in lost wages.

In addition, community providers such as labs and pharmacies would potentially see hundreds of thousands of dollars remain in the community. 

Potential savings aside, the report notes several challenges remain, including access to reliable broadband internet services and the potentially prohibitive upfront costs of installing telehealth technology.