Virtual Health Tools Could Save Primary Care Nearly $10B Annually

The use of virtual health tools in primary care could save nearly $10 billion each year, according to a new report from Accenture, FierceHealthIT reports (Hall, FierceHealthIT, 10/20).


According to the American Association of Medical Colleges,the U.S. faces a projected shortage of as many as 31,000 primary care physicians by 2025. Meanwhile, the U.S. in 2010 spent $2.6 trillion on health care, with wages making up more than half of the cost.

Details of Report

According to the report, a combination of virtual health tools and traditional patient care models can offset clinicians’ challenges with labor costs and capacity (Landi, Healthcare Informatics, 10/19).

According to the report, digital tools — including biometric devices, analytic diagnostic engines and virtual medical assistants — can help streamline work and allow clinicians to focus on high-value tasks by:

  • Automating tasks;
  • Replacing labor with technology; and
  • Shifting tasks to patients (FierceHealthIT, 10/20).

The report said that virtual health tools can save time and money when applied to:

  • Annual patient visits;
  • Ongoing patient management; and
  • Patient self-care.

The analysis found that using virtual health tools in ambulatory patient settings could save each U.S. primary care provider an average of five minutes per encounter, which amounts to a time savings equal to 37,000 PCPs, or 18% of the PCP workforce. From an economic standpoint, such savings amount to more than $7 billion annually across the U.S. health care system.

The report estimated that if each patient seeking treatment for hypertension had one in-person annual physical with half of the remaining hypertension-focused physician encounters converted to telehealth visits, the time savings would be equal to about 1,500 PCPs — or about 1% of the PCP workforce — with annual savings of $300 million.

Meanwhile, if each patient seeking treatment for diabetes used virtual health tools, the time savings would be equal to about 24,000 PCPs — or 11% of the PCP workforce — with annual savings of nearly $2 billion.

The report stated, “More available time means greater coverage for more patients, without increasing workforce size,” adding, “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” (Healthcare Informatics, 10/19).

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