Telehealth visits can save cancer patients time and money by eliminating travel and reducing lost income, according to research published in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers estimated that using telehealth saved patients $147.40 to $186.10 per visit, as well as 1.2 hours of in-clinic time and 2.9 hours of roundtrip driving time. 

Researchers analyzed 25,496 telehealth visits for 11,688 adults with cancer. The visits were conducted at a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center from April 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021.


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The researchers found that telehealth visits saved patients time by eliminating travel and time spent in the clinic. Telehealth allowed patients to save 29,626 hours of in-clinic visits overall, which translates to 1.2 hours per visit. 

Telehealth visits also saved patients an estimated 3,789,963 roundtrip miles, which translates to 75,055 hours of driving time. Per visit, telehealth saved patients a mean 148.6 roundtrip travel miles and 2.9 hours of roundtrip driving time. 

Telehealth visits also saved patients money by eliminating travel costs and reducing lost income (productivity). The researchers estimated that telehealth saved patients $1,637,407 in lost productivity overall, including $1,170,160 in lost productivity due to driving time and $467,247 in lost productivity due to visit time. 

The mean total savings from lost productivity was $64.20 per visit, including $45.90 savings in lost productivity due to driving time and $18.30 savings in lost productivity due to visit time. 

The researchers used 2 cost models to estimate savings in driving costs ($0.56/mile and $0.82/mile). The total savings in driving costs ranged from $2,122,379 at $0.56/mile to $3,107,777 at $0.82/mile. The mean savings in driving costs per visit ranged from $83.20 to $122.00. 

Overall, the mean total savings per visit ranged from $147.40 to $186.10. 

“In this economic evaluation, telehealth was associated with savings in patients’ time and travel costs, which may reduce the financial toxicity of cancer care,” the researchers concluded. “Expansion of telehealth oncology services may be an effective strategy to reduce the financial burden among patients with cancer.”

Disclosures: Some study authors declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of disclosures.

Reference

Patel KB, Turner K, Tabriz AA, et al. Estimated indirect cost savings of using telehealth among nonelderly patients with cancer. JAMA Netw Open. Published online January 10, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.50211

This article originally appeared on Cancer Therapy Advisor