A national telemonitoring initiative has the potential to save up to $3 billion a year through reduced hospital services and GP visits, according to CSIRO’s large-scale telehealth trial.

In addition to cost savings, patients in the trial had a reduced mortality rate of more than 40 per cent, according to the research which was published this week.

The research undertaken by CSIRO and partners involved 287 chronic disease patients in five states and territories trialling telehealth systems to self-manage their conditions at home over 12 months.

The trial was part of the original NBN-enabled telehealth pilots program announced in 2013, and was featured in a AAA special report on how changes to the NBN impacted telehealth and those pilots.

Test patients in the trial were provided with a telehealth device that allowed video conferencing, messaging and clinical and study specific questionnaires, as well as devices to vital signs.

CSIOR Telehealth project August16_2830The results showed savings of 24 per cent over the year to the healthcare system made through reduced GP visits, specialist visits and procedures, said Dr Rajiv Jayasena, CSIRO lead researcher.

“Aged patients with multiple chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or chronic lung disease account for more than 70 per cent of our health system expenditure,” Dr Jayasena said.

“In addition to a 24 per cent savings of Medical Benefits Scheme expenditure over one year, the trial also showed a substantial 36 per cent decrease in hospital admission and most importantly a 42 per cent reduction in length of stay if admitted to hospital during the 12 month trial.

“This is a huge saving when you consider the cost of a hospital bed per day is estimated to be about $2051 in Australia.”

Dr Jayasena said over 500,000 Australians aged over 65 would be good candidates for at-home telemonitoring.

“Our research showed the return on investment of a telemonitoring initiative on a national scale would be in the order of five to one by reducing demand on hospital inpatient and outpatient services, reduced visits to GPs, reduced visits from community nurses and an overall reduced demand on increasingly scarce clinical resources,” he said.

Download the report: Home Monitoring of Chronic Disease for Aged Care (pdf)

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