Telehealth policy

Although telehealth increases patient access to care and can improve care quality, its success depends on where and how it is used, according to an HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality review.

For its comparative review, AHRQ evaluated 145 studies on the effectiveness of these programs for inpatient, outpatient and emergency care.

Here are five things to know:

  1. Remote ICU consultations likely reduce ICU mortality and ICU length of stay.
  2. Specialty consultations likely reduce the time patients spend in the emergency department.
  3. Remote consultations for outpatient care likely improve access and a number of clinical outcomes.
  4. The study noted lower confidence in telehealth’s ability to reduce inpatient length of stay and costs, to improve outcomes and reduce costs for emergency care because of fewer transfers, and to reduce outpatient visits and costs due to travel.
  5. Researchers did not find any difference in overall hospital length of stay with remote ICUs; clinical outcomes with inpatient specialty consultations; mortality; harms with telestroke consultations; or satisfaction with outpatient consultations.

“In general, the evidence supports the effectiveness of telehealth consultations; however, the evidence is stronger for some applications, and less strong or insufficient for others. … Future research should focus on better measuring harms or unintended consequences and collecting data on the costs and economic impacts from different perspectives,” the report reads.