News Feature | November 12, 2015

Healthcare Can Cut $10 Billion Per Year With Virtual Health Tools

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

How CDI Can Save Your Healthcare IT Clients Money

According to an Accenture report, “Virtual health can enable more clinical care work to get done without expanding the workforce, by streamlining work and redirecting clinician time to high-value tasks.” Virtual health cuts costs in three major ways:

● shifts tasks and work to patients

● replaces labor with technology

● automates tasks

iHealth Beat explains the use of such tools in ambulatory patient settings could save each U.S. primary care provider an average of five minutes per encounter. Accenture did the math, and those five minutes per encounter add up to 37,000 PCPs, or 18 percent of the PCP workforce. Saving this amount of time translates to a savings of more than $7 billion annually across the U.S. healthcare system.

Virtual health solutions are not limited to helping providers though. Fierce Health IT notes that the same kind of technology could be critical in engaging patients to take more responsibility in their care. The study explains that, if each patient seeking treatment for diabetes used virtual health tools, the time savings would be equal to about 24,000 PCPs. This amounts to 11 percent of the PCP workforce and an annual savings of nearly $2 billion.

Additionally, telehealth visits could save a great amount. If every patient seeking care for hypertension had one in-person annual physical with half of the remaining hypertension-focused physician encounters converted to telehealth visits, the time savings would be equal to about 1,500 PCPs. This means that just counting patients with hypertension, telemedicine would save 1 percent of total PCPs and $300 million.

The report concluded, “More available time means greater coverage for more patients, without increasing workforce size,” adding, “The optimal combination of traditional in-person and virtual interactions could also offer the best patient experience and has the potential to create a new standard of care across the entire range of clinical services.”