The use of telehealth decreases patient mortality and length of stay in intensive care units but has no effect on mortality or length of stay in other parts of the hospital, according to a study in the March 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, MedPage Today reports.
For the study, researchers at the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center and colleagues reviewed 13 studies published between 2004 and 2010. The studies covered 41,374 patients at 35 ICUs across the country.
The findings indicated that, when telehealth was used in the ICU, patient mortality dropped by 20% and average length of stay decreased by 1.26 days.
The study authors suggest that changes in triage and medical decision-making may have caused the improved ICU mortality rates. The researchers added that lowered length of stay could be attributable to the fact that constant oversight creates a greater willingness to transfer patients to other parts of the hospital on weekends and evenings.
However, the use of telehealth outside of the ICU did not appear to reduce in-hospital mortality or length of stay, according to the study.
Editorial Comments on Analysis
In an editorial accompanying the study, Jeremy Kahn -- a physician with the University of Pittsburgh -- wrote that the study presents an opportunity to "reframe and refocus research into the efficacy of ICU telemedicine" (Fiore, MedPage Today, 3/30).