High Telehealth Use Tied to Increased Health Care Utilization, Cost

Areas of high telehealth use also had more ambulatory care-sensitive hospitalizations
High Telehealth Use Tied to Increased Health Care Utilization, Cost
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TUESDAY, May 14, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Higher telehealth use in a hospital service area is tied to increased health care utilization and cost, according to a study published online May 13 in JAMA Network Open.

Morteza Saharkhiz, Ph.D., from Meta Platforms Inc. in Menlo Park, California, and colleagues evaluated the association between telehealth use and outcomes for all Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries. The analysis included 3,436 hospital service areas for approximately 30 million Medicare beneficiaries.

The researchers found that compared with areas with low telehealth use, those living in high-use areas had more ambulatory care-sensitive hospitalizations (1.63 additional hospitalizations per 1,000 beneficiaries), more clinician encounters (0.30 additional encounters per beneficiary per semester), and higher total cost of care ($164.99 higher cost per beneficiary per semester). The groups did not significantly differ for ambulatory care-sensitive emergency department visits.

“Data from the COVID-19 pandemic suggest that higher levels of telehealth use may be associated with increased access to care and potentially lower quality of care (evidenced by increases in ambulatory care–sensitive hospitalizations)," the authors write. "Replication of this analysis with post–COVID-19 data is needed to fully understand the impacts of the telehealth expansion."

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