The U.S. spends at least $3.6 trillion on healthcare annually, giving it by far the highest per capita healthcare spend in the developed world, and the highest percentage of GDP spent on healthcare. The question is, how can an industry full of inefficiency and facing increasing demand for services reduce spending?
More than just Short-term Cost Savings
There are more benefits than just immediate cost benefits, such as not having to clean exam rooms after a telehealth visit. The issue is really about changing the overall cost model of healthcare on a broader scale to drive long-term cost benefits along with expanding revenues by creating a more efficient and informed healthcare community – including both healthcare providers and patients.
Connected health, elements of which have certainly seen a significant increase in use this year, can pave the way for a better healthcare system that makes better use of available resources, improves care delivery, and positively impacts longer-term health trends – all of which can have a positive impact on overall costs.
How Connected Health Helps
Connected health tools can enable access to patient data across systems and providers, which can streamline communication and coordination within organizations and with other providers to improve workflows and processes. By reducing the manual effort required to share patient information, providers can spend more time treating patients and less time on filling out forms and sending documentation.
Access to real-time data through remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices, and even regular virtual visits, can provide physicians better insight into patient conditions and alert them to warning signs sooner than if they have to wait for in-person appointments. The result can help reduce complications, which could require higher levels of care, including hospitalization.
Medication adherence continues to be a problem, to the tune of $100-$300 billion in avoidable costs. At least 20% of new prescriptions are never filled, and of those that are, about half are not taken correctly, if at all. Regular monitoring of patient health data through RPM devices – whether those are wearable devices that take readings automatically, or manual readings that then transmit data to providers – can help physicians track adherence through changes in patient conditions.
One of the keys to healthier patients is getting them more involved in their own care. Most patients feel more engaged with their providers when patient generated health data (PGHD) is used, especially when patients understand how that data is used in their care. Whether that data is collected through remote patient monitoring devices, automated pre-appointment (virtual or in-person) surveys, consumer wearables, or other means, it can give providers valuable data to evaluate patient conditions, and can also increase patient awareness of and engagement in their own health and wellness, which can have long-term benefits and lead to better patient outcomes.
Data Monitoring and Analytics
Artificial intelligence and other automated tools can help physicians more efficiently and accurately manage patients. Remote patient monitoring data, for instance, can trigger automatic alerts and messages if certain thresholds are breached, indicating potential issues. AI engines can also generate analyses of patient conditions based on large datasets much more rapidly than physicians are able to manually. This allows physicians to more easily confirm the AI output and move to treatment plans more rapidly. As data sets continue to grow, effective treatment plans can also be generated automatically based in individual patient data, helping increase the effectiveness of treatment based on empirical evidence.
Automation of data input into EHRs, automatic transcriptions of virtual engagements, scheduling, reminders, distribution of patient information to required physicians, and other traditionally manual tasks – including the ability to simply pull up digital records from anywhere, can reduce the administrative burden on physicians and staff. That time can be used to attend to other patient needs, and can help reduce the burnout many physicians experience when having to spend more time populating EHRs than seeing patients.
Social Determinants of Health
While connected health can directly increase access to healthcare services, access to social services have been connected to reduced healthcare costs for patients whose social needs are being met. Providers can also leverage patient information to help connect them with other services to help address socioeconomic factors that have been known to impact health and wellness.
Better Data Leads to Better Healthcare Costs
While some uses of connected health and patient data can generate more immediate cost savings, the broader value of technology-based healthcare lies in the ability to leverage data to reduce complications and drive better general health and wellness in patients and larger population groups, thereby reducing per capita healthcare costs. In addition, the efficiency gains from connected health tools and processes can drive new revenue opportunities, including the ability to serve more patients and ensuring they have access to quality care.
To learn more about using connected health solutions to drive better care models, connect with us here.