Digital health solutions achieved the U.S. healthcare industry $6 billion in cost savings in 2014, and are expected to save the system more than $100 billion over the next four years, according to new research from the New York City-based Accenture.
Accenture estimates that FDA-approved digital health solutions—an internet-connected device or software created for detection or treatment of a medical indication—could save the healthcare industry $10 billion in 2015, $18 billion in 2016, $30 billion in 2017 and $50 billion in 2018. Accenture also predicts that FDA approvals of digital health solutions will triple by the end of 2018, to 100, from 33 last year. These savings are primarily driven by medication adherence, behavior modifications and fewer ER visits, the research says.
The study assessed the number of digital health solutions that received FDA 510(k) clearance from 2010 through 2014. Accenture’s research found several factors, such as health IT mandates, payment reform and regulatory changes will accelerate the growth of FDA-approved digital solutions:
- Increased use of healthcare IT among physicians and patients, driven by federal meaningful use mandates, will continue enabling devices and solutions to integrate with patient portals and digital health records. In fact, a recent survey from Accenture found that 25 percent of U.S. physicians routinely use telemonitoring devices for some aspect of chronic disease management.
- Growing demand for patients to self-manage care: Accenture estimates the number of U.S. consumers who own a wearable fitness device will double in the next five years, from 22 percent this year to 43 percent by 2020. In fact, an Accenture survey found over half (57 percent) of U.S. consumers self-track their health information online, such as medical history (cited by 37 percent of respondents), physical activity (34 percent) and symptoms (33 percent).
- Recently released regulatory guidelines for low-risk health products, establishing a line between when a wellness tool—such as a heart rate monitor—becomes a medical device, will enable more clarity on the process, expedite regulatory pathways and is expected to drive 30 percent annual growth of these solutions through 2018.
- A shift to value-based reimbursement is creating fertile ground for clinical and business strategies that incorporate [digital health] devices. Accenture estimates digital health funding will reach $6.5 billion by 2018.
“A digital disruption is playing out in healthcare, as witnessed by the emergence of new business models and technology that will change the nature of patient interactions, alter consumer expectations and ultimately improve health outcomes,” Rick Ratliff, managing director of digital health solutions, Accenture, said in a statement. “As consumer health platforms support more ‘medical’ devices, rather than just today’s wellness trackers, they’ll create a viable self-care model in a segment that today is occupied by chronic-disease monitoring companies.”