Some new research shows that when it comes to intensive care units (ICUs), investing in telemedicine pays significant dividends: Combining a tele-ICU program with centralized bed management can increase case volume by roughly 40 percent and raise contribution margins by over $52 million. The differences were attributed to shorter lengths of stay, a higher ratio of case revenue to direct costs, and higher case volume.
The study, which will be published in the February 2017 issue of CHEST, examined 51,000 patients seen in seven adult ICUs and across three scenarios: a traditional ICU, a tele-ICU, and a tele-ICU with a logistical center that standardizes care and improves bed use. The authors analyzed case volume and contribution margins, which are calculated by subtracting direct costs from total revenue.
Compared to the traditional ICU, the tele-ICU raised case volume by 21 percent and increased contribution margins by 376 percent. The tele-ICU with a logistical center led to a 38 percent increase in case volume and a 665 percent improvement in contribution margins. Considering that it takes about $2 million to build one ICU bed, these findings translate to a gain of millions of dollars for hospitals.
As interest in telemedicine grows, some critics have questioned whether telemedicine is a financially sound investment. The results of this study suggest that if telemedicine can generate a significant increase in the return on investment of the most extensive and intensive department in a hospital, then other departments can also benefit from the technology—just by using existing resources. Overall, the increased efficiency will enable medical facilities to provide care for expanding populations without needing additional beds.
To read more about the study, click here.