Economic Evaluation of Pediatric Telemedicine Consultations to Rural Emergency Departments

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31 Scopus citations


Background. Comprehensive economic evaluations have not been conducted on telemedicine consultations to children in rural emergency departments (EDs). Objective. We conducted an economic evaluation to estimate the cost, effectiveness, and return on investment (ROI) of telemedicine consultations provided to health care providers of acutely ill and injured children in rural EDs compared with telephone consultations from a health care payer prospective. Methods. We built a decision model with parameters from primary programmatic data, national data, and the literature. We performed a base-case cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA), a probabilistic CEA with Monte Carlo simulation, and ROI estimation when CEA suggested cost-saving. The CEA was based on program effectiveness, derived from transfer decisions following telemedicine and telephone consultations. Results. The average cost for a telemedicine consultation was $3641 per child/ED/year in 2013 US dollars. Telemedicine consultations resulted in 31% fewer patient transfers compared with telephone consultations and a cost reduction of $4662 per child/ED/year. Our probabilistic CEA demonstrated telemedicine consultations were less costly than telephone consultations in 57% of simulation iterations. The ROI was calculated to be 1.28 ($4662/$3641) from the base-case analysis and estimated to be 1.96 from the probabilistic analysis, suggesting a $1.96 return for each dollar invested in telemedicine. Treating 10 acutely ill and injured children at each rural ED with telemedicine resulted in an annual cost-savings of $46,620 per ED. Limitations. Telephone and telemedicine consultations were not randomly assigned, potentially resulting in biased results. Conclusions. From a health care payer perspective, telemedicine consultations to health care providers of acutely ill and injured children presenting to rural EDs are cost-saving (base-case and more than half of Monte Carlo simulation iterations) or cost-effective compared with telephone consultations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)773-783
Number of pages11
JournalMedical Decision Making
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 10 2015


  • cost-effectiveness
  • economic evaluation
  • emergency medicine
  • pediatrics
  • rural health
  • telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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