Virtual Care Identified as “Deflator” of Health Care Costs

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PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) issued its annual projection of the coming year’s health care cost growth. Unfortunately, 2016 is no different than previous years. HRI projects a rise of 6.5 percent in medical cost trend, which continues a leveling of the increases we’ve seen since 2007, but it is still an increase.

HRI analyzed PwC’s 2015 “Health and Well-being Touchstone survey” of more than 1,100 employers from 36 industries and a national consumer survey of more than 1,000 US adults. HRI “interviewed industry executives, health policy experts and health plan actuaries whose companies cover more than 100 million employer based members.” Their main findings were that innovation in pharmaceuticals and cyber security investments were increasing costs, but “new efficiencies in the health system should prevent a return to double-digit run-away inflation.”

Remote patient monitoring and telehealth made the report’s short list of cost deflators, which is no surprise to those of us who follow the evidence of virtual care. The report states that “although virtual care is not new, its use will ramp up significantly in 2016. Costs will fall as care transitions from capital intensive “brick and mortar” to remote monitoring and visits.” HRI cited a PwC analysis of diabetes management showing a 10% decrease or $62 million savings for inpatient hospital days and a 10% decrease or $7 million in savings for ER visits.

HRI declared that “remote monitoring is saving billions of dollars across the healthcare system.” The report went on to note that “health systems and insurers should consider partnering with tech-smart companies that can offer a different type of network, clinical skillset and equipment. Retail health and outpatient clinics can also use virtual care to improve primary care access.” No argument here.