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DTC Telehealth Prompts Use of Medical Services, Not Savings

Direct-to-consumer telehealth is gaining momentum and affecting the volume of in-office visits and the use of medical services, but is not affecting care costs.

A new study from RAND found that 12 percent of telehealth use replaced office and emergency room visits while 88 percent represented new use of medical services.

March 07, 2017 - The team of RAND policy researchers examined claims information from 300,000 beneficiaries enrolled in a health plan that offered direct-to-consumer telehealth to members in 2012, and focused on care for acute respiratory infections such as sinus infections and bronchitis, the most common conditions people seek care from telehealth providers.

Telehealth offers consumers a new way to receive care with higher conveniences and lower costs but is underutilized in healthcare. The research team determined that telehealth visits were lower cost than in-office visits but those savings were minimal compared to the cost of spending for new medical services.

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