IT could save $100B for US healthcare

"As consumer health platforms support more 'medical' devices, rather than just today’s wellness trackers, they'll create a viable self-care model"
By Mike Miliard
10:46 AM
Stethoscope and money

New research from Accenture projects that digital health tools will save the U.S. healthcare industry more than $100 billion over the next four years.

[See also: FDA calls for medical device oversight]

In 2014 alone, it calculates, technology such as Web-enabled devices, digital diagnostic tools and other FDA-approved IT help achieve some $6 billion in reduced costs – mostly thanks to things such as improved medication adherence, behavior modifications and fewer emergency room visits.

Accenture expects that number to approach $10 billion this year and $18 billion next year – increasing to $30 billion in 2017 and $50 billion in 2018 as these technologies take hold, proliferate and evolve.

[See also: Digital health investment on the rise]

It also predicts that FDA approval of digital health tools will triple by the end of 2018, to 100 (up from from just 33 this past year).

"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," said Rick Ratliff, Accenture's managing director of digital health solutions in a press statement.

Factors, such as government health IT mandates, payment reform and other regulatory changes are accelerate the growth of FDA-approved digital solutions, the report shows.

Increasing ubiquity of health IT among physicians and patients will enable more and more devices to integrate with patient portals and digital health records, according to Accenture, which finds that one in four U.S. physicians routinely use telemonitoring devices for some aspect of chronic disease management.

Meanwhile, as more and more patients take charge of their own care, the number of U.S. consumers who own a wearable fitness device will double in the next five years, according to Accenture, from 22 percent this year to 43 percent by 2020. More than half (57 percent) of consumers track their health online, such as medical history (37 percent), physical activity (34 percent) and symptoms (33 percent), according its poll.

Recent FDA guidelines for low-risk health products – setting a regulatory line between wellness tools and medical devices – will enable more clarity, expedite regulatory pathways and could drive 30 percent annual growth of digital tools through 2018.

The evolution toward value-based care is also creating fertile ground for clinical and business strategies that incorporate these technologies, with Accenture projecting digital health funding to reach $6.5 billion by 2018.

"The proliferation of Internet-connected solutions and evolving regulatory guidelines are blurring the lines between clinical and consumer health solutions," said Ratliff. "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."

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