The economics of telemedicine for patients with COPD

The research achievements from TeleCare North show that there is a need for targeting telemedicine to patients with severe COPD, if short term effects regarding both health and public spending are to be obtained.

In the spring of 2015, a preliminary business case was drawn up based on the initial data from TeleCare North. The business case shows a balance between gains and costs. The business case is based on all the included patients from the TeleCare North project.

There are relatively great gains (primarily due to fewer emergency hospitalizations) as well as costs (primarily due to purchase of equipment and the work of monitoring patients’ data).

The business case shows that the accumulated net potential on a national basis is negative with 28 million DKK over a period of five years, while the annual net potential with a complete phase-in of the business case is positive by 1,5 million DKK on a national basis.

Research achievements: Telemedicine needs to be targeted

TeleCare North has four Ph.D.’s from the University of Aalborg assigned to the project, including a Ph.D. who has examined the health economic effects of telemedicine to patients with COPD.

The results from TeleCare North show that telemedicine for patients with COPD must be targeted, if both cost savings and an effect in ‘quality-adjusted life years’ are to be obtained. ‘Quality-adjusted life years’ is a complex measure showing how long a person lives and how well the person feels, while they are alive. If the telemedicine offer is targeted to patients with severe COPD (COPD patients in GOLD-group 3), it is possible to obtain both an effect in quality-adjusted life years and at the same time obtain cost savings. The reduced costs are around 7000 DKK annually per patient.

Furthermore, the results from TeleCare North show that telemedicine produces a gain regarding quality-adjusted life years for the majority of the patients, but that the gain is associated with additional costs around 5400 DKK per patient annually, if telemedicine is offered to all patients with COPD in the Tele Care North group, and not targeted to patients with severe COPD.

New consolidated business case

Recently, a new business case based on solid data from Denmark’s largest pilot project regarding telemedical home monitoring, TeleCare Nord, has been completed. The business case shows that telemedical home monitoring benefits patients in several areas. The patients become more knowledgeable about their own disease, gain better skills to self-care and influence on their own condition. Furthermore, patients in the intervention group experienced higher quality of life and safety compared to the control group.

There are both great financial gains and costs associated with a national dissemination of telemedical home monitoring for patients with COPD. The business case calculations show that the national accumulated net potential is positive by DKK 483 million over five years, while the yearly net potential at full phase-in of the business case is DKK 202 million.

The consolidated business case is available in English and Spanish and can be found in the right column.