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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