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Telehealth in Addition to Usual Care Not Cost-Effective

For adults with long-term health conditions, no increase in quality adjusted life years

FRIDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- For adults with chronic health conditions, a telehealth intervention in addition to standard support and treatment is associated with increased costs, with no significant benefit in terms of quality adjusted life years (QALYs), according to a study published online March 22 in BMJ.

Catherine Henderson, from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and colleagues assessed the costs and cost-effectiveness of telehealth plus standard support and treatment versus standard support and treatment in three local authority areas of England. Costs and outcomes were analyzed for 534 adults with a long-term health condition (heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or diabetes) who were randomized to telehealth and 431 who received usual care.

The researchers found that, at 12 months, the adjusted mean difference in QALY gain was 0.012 between the groups. In the three months before the 12-month interview, total health and social care costs were £1,390 for usual care and £1,596 for telehealth. The incremental cost of telehealth plus usual care was £92,000 per QALY, resulting in a low probability of cost-effectiveness. In sensitivity analyses, even assuming that equipment prices fell by 80 percent or that telehealth services operated at maximum capacity, telehealth costs remained slightly, but not significantly, higher. This group difference was eliminated in the most optimistic scenario (combining reduced equipment prices with maximum operating capacity).

"Telehealth does not seem to be a cost-effective addition to standard support and treatment," the authors write.

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