The healthcare community has a vested interest in finding ways to improve care and patient outcomes with the idea it will help solve many of the problems that continue to plague the healthcare system. Those include a growing elderly population, a greater need for chronic care management than ever, a physician shortage combined with an increasing rate of physician burnout, and the overall high cost of healthcare. As in most industries, healthcare can look to technology to help relieve some of these burdens. The question is, what returns can be achieved from investing in new technologies like connected health?
There are two ways to define ROI when it comes to digital health solutions. Hard ROI can be defined in terms of financial benefits that can be directly attributed to the use of connected health technologies, while soft ROI represents more intangible benefits related to patient satisfaction and engagement.
Thanks to the communications capabilities of connected health solutions, information exchange between providers and patients is not only easier, but more efficient. Furthermore, patients demand it: 78% say they would switch doctors due to poor communication or engagement. Digital communications mediums, like email, SMS, and messaging, allow patients to receive appointment reminders and opportunities to reschedule, reducing missed or appointments or last-minute cancellations. Unused physician capacity costs the U.S. healthcare system $150 billion annually, a fact made even more dramatic by the existing physician shortage.
Providers are also able to deliver important information about conditions, treatments, updates, follow-ups, or other necessary communication using these preferred digital channels, increasing the likelihood they will be read and retained. Perpetual access also means information can be easily shared with family members and other caregivers, and should reduce repeat calls to providers to get lost or misplaced paper copies. It should also avoid conflicting information from online searches for information, which could be in conflict with the patient-specific information provided by physicians.
In addition to enhancing information exchange with patients, digital packets can be easily attached to EHRs for future access, and have the added benefit of reducing printing costs, including the need to update printed materials when new information is required. It’s a cost that can be reduced by as much as 80%.
Virtual care is another element of connected health that can provide identifiable cost benefits. Combined with notification systems, they can help further reduce missed appointments by eliminating time and transportation challenges for patients. While almost a quarter of patients have tried virtual visits, more than half of those who have not say they are willing to try them, with 9 out of 10 physicians saying they see benefits to virtual care technologies, including better access to care, increased patient satisfaction, better communication, improved care coordination, increased cost-effectiveness of care, increased schedule flexibility, and improved workflows.
Net financial benefits from telehealth visits have been found to range from $19-121 per visit (taking into consideration alternative care options and follow-up visits). So, considering the projected growth rate of telehealth visits, the cost savings to the healthcare system from telehealth visits alone could be more than $2.7 billion by 2022.
Patient satisfaction and engagement
As patients and their caregivers become increasingly digitally savvy, the ability to deliver a great patient experience will hinge on the digital experience. Already, 78% of people say the digital healthcare experience needs improvement, and half say they would switch to a doctor who provides a better experience. That includes even some of the most basic healthcare tasks, like searching for a physician, accessing family health records, making or changing appointments, accessing test results, paying bills, and filling prescriptions.
Meeting this rising demand for digital healthcare tools not only helps ensure patient loyalty, it drives longer-term benefits. Satisfied patients are more likely to share their positive experiences with others, driving new patients to those providers that have embraced connected health. In addition, 65% of patients say communication from their physicians’ office makes them want to become more involved in improving their own health, helping drive longer-term health benefits and cost savings for the entire system due to improved overall health.
The good news is 85% of healthcare decision-makers believe their organizations already deliver these capabilities for increased patient engagement, but based on patient experiences, they may not yet be fully utilizing their connected health platforms.
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