VA Study Shows Telehealth Cuts Costs, Boosts Care for Veterans

June 20, 2014 in News

Veterans enrolled in home-based telehealth programs received higher quality care at lower costs compared with those receiving traditional in-person care, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs study, FierceHealthIT reports.

The findings were presented this week during the Government Health IT Conference Exhibition (Bowman, FierceHealthIT, 6/19).

This is the first time VA has been able to directly compare patients using telehealth services with patients receiving traditional in-person care, FCW reports (FCW, 6/17).

Report Findings

Adam Darkins, author of the study and chief consultant for telehealth services at VA, found that annual health care expenses between 2009 and 2012 for veterans treated via telehealth decreased by 4% one year after beginning the use of such services (FierceHealthIT, 6/19).

In fiscal year 2013 alone, Darkins said that VA-specific telehealth applications delivered care from 151 VA medical centers and more than 705 community-based outpatient clinics. Of the 608,900 veterans who were treated via telehealth, 45% lived in rural areas.

In total, nearly 1.8 million episodes of care used telehealth services. The number of veterans receiving telehealth care is increasing by about 22% each year.

In addition, the study found that in FY 2013:

  • Home telehealth services reduced bed days of care by 59%;
  • Home telehealth services reduced hospital admissions by 35%; and
  • Clinical video telehealth services reduced bed days of care for mental health by 38% (Darkins, VA Health Care presentation, 6/17).

During the conference, Darkins said that VA’s telehealth technology is “platform agnostic,” adding, “People will be able to connect from their smartphone, computer table, laptop, and looking into the future, from their TV” (FCW, 6/17).

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