Consumerism is sweeping the healthcare industry as patients play an increasingly larger role in the decisions affecting their health, and this comes with higher patient expectations.
This trend was evident during the 2017 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Orlando, but even more apparent during the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Exhibitors presented health-oriented solutions, such as spoons for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, wearables and other devices measuring vitals and transferring that information to your doctor. They even included devices that traditionally do not occupy the health and wellness space, like Mercedes-Benz’ unique approach to a vitality coach.
This trend towards wearable health tech is growing. The Consumer Electronics Association estimated that the number of health-related products exhibited at CES increased by 30-40% since last year.
Connected Wearables and Telehealth’s Potential Benefits
Since patient satisfaction is influencing provider reimbursement, the increase in patient-facing technology is not surprising. Wearables and telehealth are two areas that meet patient needs for access to health anytime and anywhere. From a provider standpoint, two questions arise: are these products and technologies worth investing in, and what are their benefits?
To answer these questions, let’s look at a quarter trillion dollar problem: diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association estimated the total cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 to be $245 billion. Patients with diagnosed diabetes incurred average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year. This number is 2.3 times higher than that of a patient without diabetes. Wearables and telehealth could help decrease this problem.
A hospital that treats one million patients could realize additional revenue of $4.7M annually and reduce its diabetes-related readmission costs by 31%.
Here is how:
Of one million patients, around 93,000 (or 9.3% according to CDC) suffer from type 2 diabetes. Proper exercise and diet is a crucial part of those patients’ health management.
The decreasing cost of activity trackers makes it easier to equip patients with wearables. Devices help patients track their activity levels and give a nudge to move more frequently to lead a healthier life. These changes can mitigate costly treatments and frequent hospital visits -- all for the low wholesale price of $40 per device.
Transmitting wearable data to the clinic would allow providers to act upon patient behaviors in a more timely manner. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) states that around 50% of diabetic patients are noncompliant with prescribed exercises. Using patient-generated health data, medical personnel would know exactly whom to contact.
On average, non-compliant patients need to be contacted twice to get back on track. Assuming that each telehealth visit brings about $50 in revenue, communications to noncompliant patients can significantly improve the health outlooks. Additionally, an organization could realize $4.7M in revenue annually, assuming that all type 2 diabetes patients utilized an activity tracker.
Diabetes continues to be a chronic disease with frequent hospital readmissions. According to American Nurse Today, patients with diabetes account for approximately 480,958 hospital inpatient stays per year and have a 30-day readmission rate of 20.3%.
Telehealth could be utilized for follow-up care to reduce hospital readmission rates. One study published in the American Journal of Managed Care in 2015 found telehealth to reduce hospital readmissions by 31%. As regulatory changes are shifting to focus on outcomes, decreased readmissions could significantly improve hospital financials.
Still not convinced about investing in these technologies?
A recent study by American Well, a telehealth company, showed that 20% of patients would switch their primary care provider for one that offers telehealth services. This means that providers could lose patient volume if they do not start providing telemedicine.
Healthcare Dive noted that the number of self-pay tele-visits tripled in 2016 compared to 2015 even though nearly one-third of telemedicine visits were self-pay. This indicates that patients are increasingly willing to pay out-of-pocket for the convenience of telehealth.
Furthermore, telehealth services, such as virtual medical care, alleviates travel time required by both providers and patients, eliminating transportation as a barrier to care. Providers are able to see more patients, and patients living in remote areas no longer need to travel long distances to seek medical advice.
The Next Phase in Patient-Facing Technology
During CES, exhibitors presenting health-oriented solutions even included devices that traditionally do not occupy the health and wellness space. For example, Mercedes Benz presented car prototypes that turn vehicles into the ultimate health machine. By collecting data from wearables and reading biometrics, the car can understand the driver’s mood and become a vitality coach.
For instance, the car could instruct the driver to take a deep breath if it senses that the driver is stressed. While this is not the technology for healthcare providers to yet invest in, this product illustrates the possibilities that healthcare technology and connectivity can provide, highlighting the importance of this topic for consumers.
To learn more about how patient-facing technologies can improve your practice,
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