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on psychiatry and psychology

Cost Efficiency of Online Medical Help

Abstract: Web4Health has about 400 000 visitors viewing about one million pages per month, at a cost of about half an Euro/visitor (including all costs of developing and running the web site).

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Cost Efficiency of Online Medical Help

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Question(s): 
Written by: Martin Winkler and Jacob Palme
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 22 Aug 2008.

What are the costs of Web4health?
What is the benefit for European society?
What is the cost efficiency of online medical help?

Answer:

According to a recent survey of the WHO the influence of mental health disorders in Europe is still underestimated :

"People with mental health problems have to cope with stigma, exclusion, taboo, and refusal by their society to recognize the real cost of mental disorders and mental health. This is reflected in an inappropriate allocation of financial and human resources. A total of 28% of Member States of the European Region have no specified mental health budget.

Despite the enormous diversity in lifestyles, economic status and service provision, the European Region is seeing a relentless increase in illness and mortality related to stress, helplessness, loss of identity and social cohesion. This is particularly evident in communities experiencing dramatic societal changes and in populations at risk. During any one year, an estimated 33.4 million people in the Region suffer from major depression. Research shows that 47% of people requiring care do not get it - they remain untreated."
(World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe)

The total cost of developing and running Web4Health, including both the EU funding and the funding by partners, was until January 2006 June 2005 about 2 million Euro. The site has until this date had about five million visitors, so the cost/visitor is about 40 cent.

According to several questionnaires, most visitors of Web4Health finds the site useful and many of them very useful.

The main goal of Web4health is to provide psychoeducation to many European people with psychological problems. This may help to motivate citizens to seek professional advice by psychiatrists or psychologists. But we also know that the information about psychosomatic disorders or psychological causes may reduce unnecessary repeated doctor visits.

In January 2006 Web4Health had more than 400 000 visitors viewing more than a million pages. 400 000 patients at an average cost of 60 euro/patient would be a cost of 24 million Euro/month for helping these patients. Even if only 5% of all Web4Health visits replace a visitor to a doctor or psychotherapist, the savings will be 4-6 million Euro a year.

  • 5 %: A saving of 1 200 000 Euro/month
  • 10 %: A saving of 2 400 000 Euro/month
  • 25 %: A saving of 6 000 000 Euro/month

The total cost, mostly in loss of productive work, for mental health in the EU is around 70 000 000 000 million Euro/year.

Within Web4Health, there is a function where visitors can send their question to a human specialist for answering. (More info) Web4Health receives about 500-1000 questions per months, some of which are answered by medical specialists. Only about 0.3 % of all visitors use this function for individual answers. The cost of answering such a question is about the same as a visit to a doctor or psychotherapist. But since 99.7 % of the visitors are satisfied without asking such a question, the average cost per visitor is much less than that of giving a personal answer to a question.

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