Accenture: Virtual health solutions in primary care could save $10B per year

Virtual health

Modern virtual health solutions promise big improvements in productivity, and if used in primary care – they could save as much as $10 billion per year, according to Accenture’s new report.

The management consulting firm has been investigating economic value of applying virtual health solutions to three care scenarios: annual patient visit; ongoing patient management; and self-care.

The time that can be released by using digital health tools in diabetes management is equivalent to approximately 24,000 PCPs, for a value of almost $2 billion annually.For an annual patient visit, applying digital tools such as biometric devices, analytic diagnostic engine and a virtual medical assistant could enable healthcare providers to gather patient information, complete the intake survey and consider clinical options prior to the patient visit, streamlining the in-person exam. By streamlining data collection and shifting some tasks to patients or technology, the primary care physician’s (PCP) time for each annual patient exam — if reduced by only five minutes — could “free up” the equivalent of 37,000 PCPs, without the need to train or hire more doctors. Put into money, that’s an economic value of more than $7 billion annually.

“This type of virtual health can boost the supply of primary care doctors – without adding or training professionals – at a time when there’s a projected shortage of 31,000 professionals expected in the next decade,” said Kaveh Safavi M.D., J.D., global managing director of Accenture Health.

Accenture also talks about using virtual visits (eVisits), which are increasingly emerging as an alternative to in-person office visits for managing ongoing needs. One area where eVisits can be applied is hypertension management, which represents around one-quarter (26%) of annual outpatient visits. If each patient has one in-person annual physical and half of the remaining hypertension-focused encounters convert to eVisits, the time savings could be the equivalent of around 1,500 PCPs — or 1 percent of the PCP workforce — with an approximate annual value of $300 million.

Another area is diabetes care; the time that can be released for other uses is equivalent to approximately 24,000 PCPs — or 11 percent of the PCP workforce — for a value of almost $2 billion annually.