A Cost Comparison for Telehealth Utilization in the Kidney Transplant Waitlist Evaluation Process

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Abstract

Background

There have been limited publications on telehealth utilization in transplantation with no prior reports of telehealth-related costs for pretransplant evaluations. The aim of this study is to compare costs throughout the evaluation process for those patients assessed initially by telehealth with those seen in-person.

Methods

All patients approved for kidney transplant waitlist evaluation at our center from March 2013 thru May 2016 with decisions were included in this study. Patients approved for evaluation were scheduled for either an initial telehealth or in-person visit, partly based on patient factors. Clinically related and travel-related costs were calculated. Time estimates for patient time needed to complete visit, time from application approval to initial visit, and time from application approval to decision were obtained. Comparisons were made using t tests.

Results

Thirty-nine months were included for 302 patients. All categories of clinically or travel-related costs were significantly less for the telehealth cohort (P < 0.0001). Total mean cost per patient was US $656.11 versus US $1108.91 for the cohort initially evaluated by telehealth versus in-person (P < 0.001). The time needed to complete an evaluation (1.7 vs 2.4 days, P < 0.001) and the time to initial evaluation (51.4 vs 87.9.0 days, P < 0.001) were significantly less in the telehealth cohort. The cohort seen by telehealth was older with increased comorbidities (<0.001).

Conclusions

As telemedicine applications continue to proliferate, we present our experience with telehealth for initial kidney transplant waitlist evaluations with associated reductions in cost and time which may also improve access to transplantation.

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