Telehealth Presents Opportunities to Dramatically Cut U.S. Healthcare Spending
The annual gross domestic product (GDP) of the U.S. is just shy of $20 trillion. Of this amount, a staggering 18 percent – or approximately $3.5 trillion – is spent on healthcare. To put this into perspective, our Nation spends twice as much per person on healthcare than other high-income countries, yet the quality of care isn’t any better (and, by some measures, it’s much worse).
Telehealth has the potential to cut costs dramatically while also improving outcomes for many patient populations. In the coming years, Accenture estimates that telehealth could shave $10 billion off our nation’s healthcare expenditure through three initiatives over the next 10 years:
- Annual patient visits
- Ongoing patient management for chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease
- Patient self-care of chronic conditions
Telehealth also is poised to help mitigate the looming shortfall of primary care providers (PCP). The American Association of Medical Colleges estimates that there will be a shortage of 40,000 PCPs over the next decade. Accenture estimates that telehealth virtual care visits, coupled with increasingly available and affordable patient wearable healthcare devices, will translate into savings of:
- 47.8 million PCP work hours related to annual patient visits
- 1.9 million PCP work hours related to ongoing patient management
- 11.9 million PCP work hours related to patient self-care
Medical care isn’t the only area that’s poised to transform the health of our Nation and its citizens. Virtual mental healthcare – or telebehavioral health – saves considerable money, enhances convenience and improves access compared to live, in-person therapy.
Additionally, as artificial intelligence healthcare services become more affordable and ubiquitous, its incorporation into telehealth is a given.
Finally, a recent report from the Department of Health and Human Services to the White House estimates that anywhere from one-third to one-half of healthcare services that are now delivered live and in-person could eventually be provided virtually. When that happens, the number of healthcare dollars spent on telehealth/virtual care will stretch into the trillions. At the same time, evidence shows that telehealth holds the promise to significantly bend the upward trajectory of the US healthcare cost curve.
It’s clear that virtual care has the power and potential to make a meaningful difference for American healthcare.