Telemedicine solutions within the healthcare sector have shown their worth in the large scale project TeleCare North situated in The North Denmark Region. The Region, the eleven affiliated municipalities, Aalborg University and the general practitioners have cooperated in testing telemedicine for patients with the lung disease COPD.
The patients who participated in the project were given a so called TeleKit, which enabled them to record and report data regarding their health condition on their own. The virtual contact was, when needed, supplemented with the possibility for actual visits at the GP’s office or at the hospital.
Favorable for patients
The patients in the TeleCare North project experienced a positive effect with telemedicine. Six out of ten experienced increased control with their disease, while more than seven out of ten experienced a feeling of increased safety and control over their disease.
User-friendliness is important when telemedicine solutions are offered, and the Telekit was well received by the patients in the TeleCare North project. A sample survey done in relation to TeleCare North showed that almost nine out of ten patients thought the Telekit was easy or very easy to use.
I the North Denmark Region 45.000 patients are diagnosed with COPD, and amongst these, around 4.500 patients suffer from a severe or very severe degree of COPD. Studies from the Lung Association show that around 23.000 patients are admitted to a hospital annually due to COPD. Consequently, large amounts of money can be saved, if treatments can be improved and the amount of hospitalizations can be reduced.
Financial gains are dependent on target group
TeleCare North has shown that the financial gains from telemedicine are greatest for patients with a severe degree of COPD. TeleCare North estimates that for this group of patients 7.000 DKK can be saved annually per patient in municipals and region. Furthermore results show that for patients who were already known in the system 9.000 DKK can be saved annually. The savings are mainly due to fewer and shorter hospitalizations.
If telemedicine is offered to all patients with COPD, without regard to the severity of their disease, an additional cost of 5.400 DKK per patient can be expected annually. This is because telemedicine cannot reduce the amount of hospitalizations to the same degree for the entire group of patients, as for the patients with severe COPD seen isolated. Tina Heide, project manager, explains:
”TeleCare North shows that telemedicine increases the patients’ feelings of safety and management of own disease, but it is necessary to target the offer at patients with a severe degree of COPD, if we want to see effects regarding both patients and finances in the short run.”
Thus, TeleCare North shows that the economics of telemedicine for patients with COPD is connected to the choice of target group, which the treatment is being offered to. Regardless, it is evident that gains can be obtained with telemedicine solutions for patients with COPD. Experiences from the project have formed the basis for the national dissemination of telemedicine.
Towards 2017, TeleCare North will test whether heart failure patients also benefit from a cross-sectorial telemedicine offer.