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Summary

Background  The Dermatology Department of the University Medical Centre Utrecht, the Netherlands, developed an e-health portal for patients with atopic dermatitis (AD), consisting of e-consultation, a patient-tailored website, monitoring and self-management training.

Objectives  To determine the cost-effectiveness of individualized e-health compared with usual face-to-face care for children and adults with AD.

Methods  A randomized controlled cost-effectiveness study from a societal perspective in adults and parents of children with moderate AD. Outcomes were quality of life, severity of AD, itching and direct and indirect costs. Data were collected at baseline and at 3 and 12 months after randomization. Linear mixed models were used to analyse clinical outcomes. After multiple imputation of missing data, costs and differences in costs were calculated over a period of 1 year.

Results  In total, 199 patients were included. There were no significant differences in disease-specific quality of life, severity of AD and intensity of itching between both groups at the three time points. The difference in direct costs between the intervention and control groups was €24 [95% confidence interval (CI) −360 to 383], whereas this difference was −€618 (95% CI −2502 to 1143) for indirect costs. Overall, individual e-health was expected to save €594 (95% CI −2545 to 1227) per patient in the first year of treatment, mainly through a reduction in work absenteeism. Uncertainty analyses revealed that the probability of e-health reducing costs was estimated to be ≥ 73%.

Conclusions  E-health during follow-up of patients with AD is, after initial diagnosis and treatment during face-to-face contact, just as effective as usual face-to-face care with regard to quality of life and severity of disease. However, when costs are considered, e-health is likely to result in substantial cost savings. Therefore, e-health is a valuable service for patients with AD.