Medicare Payments, Health Care Services Use, and Telemedicine Implementation Cost in Randomized Trial Comparing Telemedicine Case Management With Usual Care in Medically Underserved Patients With Diabetes Mellitus
To determine whether a diabetes case management telemedicine intervention reduced healthcare expenditures, as measured by Medicare claims, and to assess the costs of developing and implementing the telemedicine intervention.
We studied 1665 participants in the Informatics for Diabetes Education and Telemedicine (IDEATel), a randomized controlled trial comparing telemedicine case management of diabetes to usual care. Participants were aged 55 years or older, and resided in federally designated medically underserved areas of New York State.
We analyzed Medicare claims payments for each participant for up to 60 study months from date of randomization, until their death, or until December 31, 2006 (whichever happened first). We also analyzed study expenditures for the telemedicine intervention over six budget years (February 28, 2000- February 27, 2006).
Mean annual Medicare payments (SE) were similar in the usual care and telemedicine groups, $9040 ($386) and $9669 ($443) per participant, respectively (p>0.05). Sensitivity analyses, including stratification by censored status, adjustment by enrollment site, and semi-parametric weighting by probability of dropping-out, rendered similar results. Over six budget years 28 821 participant/months of telemedicine intervention were delivered, at an estimated cost of $622 per participant/month.
Telemedicine case management was not associated with a reduction in Medicare claims in this medically underserved population. The cost of implementing the telemedicine intervention was high, largely representing special purpose hardware and software costs required at the time. Lower implementation costs will need to be achieved using lower cost technology in order for telemedicine case management to be more widely used.