Telehealth at Mayo to help save taxpayers $172.8 million

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I love this story because it really demonstrates that money spent on technology is an investment that pays off. It’s not a donation; it’s not sunken costs. According to the Rochester Post Bulletin

Mayo Clinic will share $60 million from the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to fund efforts to improve health care — and save costs.

Mayo also announced expected savings — of $172.8 million — for taxpayers as a result of the $60 million investment.

And here are some of the projects that will be funded…

The grant covers three projects:

• A “patient-centric” electronic environment — costing $16 million and estimated to save U.S. taxpayers $81.3 million over three years. Four states (Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York and Oklahoma) will participate in a Mayo collaboration with the U.S. Critical Illness and Injury Trials Group and Philips Research North America.

Mayo will train ICU caregivers to effectively use new health information technologies to manage ICU patient care, reducing errors due to information overload. Mayo’s model uses a Cloud-based system with a centralized data repository, electronic surveillance and quality measurement of care-response.

• A collaborative effort including Mayo Clinic Health System for management of multiple physical and mental illnesses, costing $18 million and estimated to save taxpayers $27.7 million. Care will be monitored and patients will transition to self-management.

• Shared decision-making for patients and care providers, costing $26 million and estimated to save taxpayers $63.8 million. Sixteen states will be touched by a Dartmouth College Board of Trustees grant with lead Mayo Clinic investigator Dr. Doug Wood.

Patient and Family Activators will be hired to work with patients and their families so they share decision making with doctors, and that’s expected to reduce utilization and costs.

Obviously it’s easier to recoup costs when the funding is a grant – but think of this in terms of investment from the federal government. They invest $60 million so that taxpayers save $172 million. Presumably this effort will help shift healthcare services online – clearly that’s the focus of at least two-thirds of the projects mentioned above – but also presumably savings will only be realized when patients have the technology (equipment and connectivity) they need to access healthcare resources online.

So while we calculate the cost of bringing broadband to unserved areas – I think we also need to calculate the cost of not bringing broadband to unserved areas. As more services are provided online it will become costlier to serve people who aren’t online – especially since many of those hard to reach places are by definition the most remote.