Digital Health Tools Could Save Healthcare System $10B Annually | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

Digital Health Tools Could Save Healthcare System $10B Annually

October 19, 2015
by Heather Landi
| Reprints

The use of virtual health solutions in primary care could save $10 billion annually when applied to annual patient visits, ongoing patient management and self-care, according to a recently released report from Accenture.

The report highlights that the U.S. is faced with health professional shortages, with a projected shortage of as many as 31,000 primary care physicians (PCPs) by 2025, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges. And, the U.S. spent $2.6 trillion on healthcare in 2010, with wages accounting for more than half of that cost.

The Accenture report states that combining virtual health and traditional patient care models can help address the nation’s clinician labor cost and capacity challenges.

“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 care models can expand clinician capacity in three critical ways: shift tasks and work to patients, replace labor with technology and automate tasks,” the report authors stated. “More available time means greater coverage for more patients, without increasing workforce size. 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.”

As one example, the Accenture report details how during an annual patient visit, a patient could provide information to the physician prior to the scheduled appointment through the use of digital tools, such as wearable sensors and digital weight scales. This information could be submitted through a secure portal with the use of a computer-generated medical assistant that guides the patient through intake questions and then analyzing the combined information with a diagnostic engine, clinical options can be suggested to the physician prior to the in-person exam.

Accenture analysis shows that applying virtual health to annual ambulatory patient encounters can save each U.S PCP an average of five minutes per encounter, which is a time savings equivalent to as many as 37,000 PCPs, or 18 percent of the PCP workforce. This amounts to an economic value of more than $7 billion annually across the U.S. health system.

The Accenture report also highlights the use of eVisits as an alternative to in-person visits to manage patients’ ongoing clinical needs. eVisits are asynchronous clinical exchanges completed via secure messaging in which patients submit information, questions and images for physician review and response. For a patient with hypertension, if each patient has one in-person annual physical with half of the remaining hypertension-focused encounters converted to eVisits, the time savings could be equivalent of around 1,500 PCPs, or roughly one percent of the workforce for an approximate annual value of $300 million, according to the Accenture report.

The report also states that virtual health solutions can be applied to patients with chronic conditions to help them self-manage their conditions outside of the annual exam. The Accenture analysis highlighted applying a care model comprised of an annual physician exam and technology-enabled self-management for the rest of the year to one specific condition – diabetes care. The Accenture analysis found that when applied to diabetes care virtual health solutions could save the time equivalent to approximately 24,000 PCPs, representing 11 percent of the workforce for a value of almost $2 billion annually.

At the enterprise level, the Accenture analysis found that for a large regional health system or independent practice association, an average of five minutes saved across all ambulatory annual encounters can release about $63 million in physician capacity per year, the equivalent of about 320 practicing PCPs. For smaller systems or clinically integrated networks, a five-minute savings across all annual encounters can release the equivalent of roughly 140 physicians’ time with a value of almost $28 million annually.

Get the latest information on Health IT and attend other valuable sessions at this two-day Summit providing healthcare leaders with educational content, insightful debate and dialogue on the future of healthcare and technology.

Learn More



Adam Boehler Tapped by Azar to Serve as Senior Value-Based Care Advisor

Adam Boehler, currently director of CMMI, has also been named the senior advisor for value-based transformation and innovation, HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced.

Vivli Launches Clinical Research Data-Sharing Platform

On July 19 a new global data-sharing and analytics platform called Vivli was unveiled. The nonprofit group’s mission is to promote, coordinate and facilitate scientific sharing and reuse of clinical research data.

Survey: More Effective IT Needed to Improve Patient Safety

In a Health Catalyst survey, physicians, nurses and healthcare executives said ineffective information technology, and the lack of real-time warnings for possible harm events, are key obstacles to achieving their organizations' patient safety goals.

Physicians Still Reluctant to Embrace Virtual Tech, Survey Finds

While consumers and physicians agree that virtual healthcare holds great promise for transforming care delivery, physicians still remain reluctant to embrace the technologies, according to a new Deloitte Center for Health Solutions survey.

Geisinger, AstraZeneca Partner on Asthma App Suite

Geisinger has partnered with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to create a suite of products that integrate into the electronic health record and engage asthma patients and their providers in co-managing the disease.

Analysis: Healthcare Ransomware Attacks Decline in First Half of 2018

In the first half of 2018, ransomware events in major healthcare data breaches diminished substantially compared to the same time period last year, as cyber attackers move on to more profitable activities, such as cryptojacking, according to a new report form cybersecurity firm Cryptonite.