A cost comparison of travel models and behavioural telemedicine for rural, Native American populations in New Mexico. Academic Article uri icon


  • The purpose of this study was to model the cost of delivering behavioural health services to rural Native American populations using telecommunications and compare these costs with the travel costs associated with providing equivalent care.Behavioural telehealth costs were modelled using equipment, transmission, administrative and IT costs from an established telecommunications centre. Two types of travel models were estimated: a patient travel model and a physician travel model. These costs were modelled using the New Mexico resource geographic information system program (RGIS) and ArcGIS software and unit costs (e.g. fuel prices, vehicle depreciation, lodging, physician wages, and patient wages) that were obtained from the literature and US government agencies.The average per-patient cost of providing behavioural healthcare via telehealth was US$138.34, and the average per-patient travel cost was US$169.76 for physicians and US$333.52 for patients. Sensitivity analysis found these results to be rather robust to changes in imputed parameters and preliminary evidence of economies of scale was found.Besides the obvious benefits of increased access to healthcare and reduced health disparities, providing behavioural telehealth for rural Native American populations was estimated to be less costly than modelled equivalent care provided by travelling. Additionally, as administrative and coordination costs are a major component of telehealth costs, as programmes grow to serve more patients, the relative costs of these initial infrastructure as well as overall per-patient costs should decrease.© The Author(s) 2015 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav.

publication date

  • May 2015