Cost-Effective ICU Telemedicine

Posted November 12, 2020 by Soichi Hayashi and Andra Ferrara

January 01, 2018


Telemedicine in the intensive care unit (tele-ICU) is expected to address geographic health disparities through more efficient resource allocation. Our previous economic evaluation demonstrated tele-ICU to be cost-effective in most cases and cost saving in some cases, compared to conventional intensive care unit (ICU) care without adequate intensivist coverage.


This study’s objective is to examine how to optimize the cost-effectiveness of tele-ICU use by selecting highest risk (i.e., both highest mortality and highest cost) subpopulations. Researchers also explore potential cost savings.

Materials and Methods

Researchers conducted simulation analyses among a hypothetical adult ICU patient cohort defined by the literature, distinguishing four types of hospitals: urban tertiary (primary analysis), urban community, rural tertiary, and rural community. The selected tele-ICU use was assumed to affect per-patient ICU cost and hospital mortality among highest risk subpopulations (10–100% of all ICU patients), defined by an established illness-severity measure.


Researchers found a U-shaped relationship between the economic efficiency and selected tele-ICU use among all 4 hospital types. Optimal cost-effectiveness was achieved when tele-ICU was applied to the 30–40% highest risk patients among all ICU patients (incremental cost-effectiveness ratio = $25,392 [2014 U.S. dollars] per extending a quality-adjusted life year) in urban tertiary hospitals (primary analysis). Our break-even analyses indicated that cost saving seems more feasible when reducing ICU medical care cost, rather than lowering the cost to operate telemedicine alone.

Discussion and Conclusions

A selected use of tele-ICU based on severity of illness is likely to improve tele-ICU cost-effectiveness. To achieve cost saving, tele-ICU must reduce more than just telemedicine-related cost.


Byung-Kwang Yoo; Minchul Kim; Tomoko Sasaki; Jeffrey S. Hoch; James P. Marcin; “Selected Use of Telemedicine in Intensive Care Units Based on Severity of Illness Improves Cost-Effectiveness”

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