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Department of Economics

You have a match! How telemedicine could improve healthcare

The digitalization of numerous services is on the rise, including in the healthcare sector. Amanda Dahlstrand, an assistant professor in our department, studied how telemedicine affects the quality of healthcare.

The digitalisation of numerous services is on the rise, including in the healthcare sector. Telemedicine removes geographical and social barriers and offers the flexibility to see a general practitioner (GP) regardless of where you live. This reduces the distance between patient and doctor.

Researcher Amanda Dahlstrand wanted to understand whether it even matters which GP you see and whether this affects the quality of healthcare.

To investigate these questions, she scrutinised the database of Europe’s largest digital primary care provider. This database comprises the random assignment of 200,000 patients to 150 doctors in Sweden between 2016 and 2018.

Optimised matching leads to better healthcare 

Firstly, the researcher found that general practitioners have widely varying skillsets and perform very differently. And, secondly, patients’ estimated needs and risks were classified differently. The question now is whether optimised matching of doctors and patients using an algorithm would produce better healthcare than the random principle. Could the best-qualified doctors provide better care for high-risk patients?

The researcher simulated an optimised patient-physician matching process and was able to show that algorithmically controlled and optimised matching actually has positive effects on healthcare. For example, matching highly qualified doctors with patients in urgent need of care reduces negative health outcomes by 90 per cent. Another benefit of this matching that she identified is the reduction of inequality in healthcare, as the best doctors can be assigned to low-income patients.

This article was first published in the .inspired Magazin No. 19 (in German).