Nikki Yang, a Ph.D. candidate in the UC Davis Graduate Group in Epidemiology, recently won the 2013 Student Paper Award from the American Telemedicine Association.
Yang’s research focuses on the cost-effectiveness and quality of care of a pediatric critical care telemedicine program in rural emergency departments. The title of her award-winning paper is “Cost-Effectiveness of a Telemedicine Program in Rural Emergency Departments.”
There is an increasing use of telemedicine to provide pediatric specialty consultations for seriously ill children presenting to rural emergency departments. The objective of Yang’s study was to assess the cost effectiveness of using telemedicine to provide pediatric critical care consultations compared to consultations provided via telephone, the current standard of care. Yang and her team collected retrospective data from the charts of children at eight rural emergency departments in California who received telemedicine and telephone consultations from pediatric critical-care specialists at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.
In Yang's study, the cost of transferring a child from those rural emergency departments to UC Davis was based on reimbursements paid by insurance companies and Medi-Cal.
The study found that telemedicine consultations resulted in 31 percent fewer transfers compared to telephone consultations among similarly ill children. The average cost for a telemedicine consultation was $2,096 per child, per emergency department, per year.
The telemedicine consultations’ estimated savings in cost compared to telephone consultations was $38,366 per emergency department per year. By reducing the likelihood of patient transfers, telemedicine consultations demonstrated cost savings and cost-effectiveness for insurance companies, Medi-Cal and patients' out-of-pocket costs.