The large-scale project TeleCare Nord set in the region of Northern Jutland has shown the benefits of telemedicine solutions. In the project, The North Denmark Region, the 11 associated municipalities, Aalborg University and local doctors have cooperated to test telemedicine for patients with the lung disease COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
The participants in the project received a so-called TeleKit, which gave patients the opportunity to measure and report data about their condition on their own. The virtual contact was supported by physical visits either at home or at the hospital.
Benefits for both patients and public spending
The patients in TeleCare Nord experienced an evident positive effect from telemedicine. Six in ten experienced increased control with the disease, while more than seven in ten experienced increased comfort and mastering of their disease. Usability is key for the success of telemedicine solutions, and the patients’ feedback on the TeleKit was positive. A random sample made during the TeleCare Nord project showed how almost nine in ten persons thought it was easy or very easy to use the TeleKit.
In The North Denmark Region alone, 45.000 citizens are diagnosed with COPD, and it is estimated that around 4.500 of these COPD patients are characterized as severe or very severe. Figures from the Danish Lung Association estimate that around 23.000 COPD hospitalizations are made annually in all of Denmark. Hence, the economic potential is significant if telemedicine leads to fewer hospitalizations.
Economic gains depend on segment
TeleCare Nord suggests that the economic potential of telemedicine is largest for patients with very severe COPD. TeleCare Nord estimates that the potential economic gains from this particular group amount to 7.000 DKK annually for each patient in municipalities and region. The cost reduction is primarily driven by fewer hospitalizations.
However, if telemedicine were offered to all patients with COPD this would be associated with an increased cost of 5.400 (DKK) annually per patient. The telemedicine equipment is expensive, and telemedicine does not reduce the number of hospitalized patients in all patient groups. Tina Heide, Project Leader at TeleCare Nord, explains:
“TeleCare Nord shows, how telemedicine contributes to increased comfort and disease mastering, but there is still a demand for targeting of the offer to patients with severe COPD, in order to achieve benefits for both patients and short term economic gains.”
Therefore TeleCare Nord shows how the economy of telemedicine solutions for patients with COPD depends on the patient group. Still, it is clear that there are gains from telemedicine solutions for patients with COPD. Hence, the project has paved the way for telemedicine to patients with COPD to be disseminated throughout the rest of the country. But TeleCare Nord does not stop here. The next step for TeleCare Nord is to test whether heart failure patients can also benefit from telemedicine.
Facts on TeleCare Nord - who, what and where
The project targeted patients with COPD, and throughout the project a total of 1,124 patients have used telemedicine home monitoring and reported 330,939 files.
The telemedicine solution contains a TeleKit which includes a tablet with mobile internet, scales, a sphygmomanometer and an oxygen meter.
The project TeleCare Nord was run in The North Denmark Region from 2012-2015 and has provided valuable knowledge about the use of telemedicine solutions.