Policymakers can advance care delivery and benefit patients by expanding access to telehealth in Medicare and new payment models, according to a new AHA issue brief. “A growing body of evidence shows that telehealth can not only expand access to services but also create cost savings,” the report notes. For example, the Veterans Health Administration estimates its telehealth program reduced hospital admissions and shortened hospital stays to save nearly $1 billion in 2012. A recent study of enrollees in the California Public Employees Retirement System found that telehealth patients were less likely to require a follow-up visit than patients who received their initial consult for a similar condition in an emergency department or physician’s office. Telehealth also can allow some hospital patients to receive care at home at lower cost or access specialists without the need to transfer to another hospital, and help nursing home patients avoid hospitalizations, the report notes. Additional research using larger samples sizes, diverse geographies and a broader range of conditions and services “can help policymakers better understand the full range of benefits,” the report adds.

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