Saving Miles & Millions

September 12, 2012 by InTouch Health

If you pilot a life-flight helicopter or drive an ambulance, you may not want to read this post.

A number of hospitals in the Idaho/Oregon area are using remote presence technology to achieve seven-figure savings by making fewer helicopter and ambulance trips to tertiary centers. Saint Alphonsus Health System in Boise, Idaho has already documented $1.7 million in medical transport savings. And the affiliated Grande Ronde Hospital in northeast Oregon operates a tele-ICU program that has saved a whopping $1.3 million in the past four years.

But the savings and convenience don’t end there. By making transport unnecessary, patients get attention far faster – all from their community hospitals. Grande Ronde, for example, is more than 250 miles from Portland, Oregon. Grande Ronde’s Doug Romer estimates that remote presence has kept more than $1 million in the local economy. That’s quite significant in a town of just 13,000 residents.

Remote presence reduces the need for emergency transports.

Life-flight pilots aren’t the only ones logging fewer miles. St. Alphonsus’ telepsychiatry department has saved patients nearly 600,000 miles in travel, which translates to close to $300,000 in fuel savings if you calculate 50 cents per mile to the nearest in-person provider. Those savings are magnified when you consider that St. Alphonsus also uses remote presence for oncology, wound management, orthopedics, and much more.

St. Alphonsus also earns kudos for high utilization. “We wanted to develop multiple applications [for remote presence] so that we didn’t have a piece of equipment that wasn’t being used frequently, and so the project would be more sustainable,” says Tiffany Whitmore, St. Alphonsus’ director of system development and telemedicine.

In the West, helicopter pilots will always be in high demand to handle emergencies like wildfires. But it’s likely that fewer of those emergencies will be of a medical nature.