Telehealth and patient engagement tools are transforming care delivery

Preliminary findings show a reduction in costs, improved patient outcomes, and fewer emergency admittances.

A long-lived population struggles to control health costs.

With an average life expectancy of 81.2 years, the Basque Country in Spain ranks third behind Japan and Hong Kong in longevity. Residents can look forward to exceeding the global average lifespan by more than 10 years.1 While a clear testament to the benefits of healthy living and good genes, the region’s aging population—18 percent of the 2.2 million people in the Spanish Basque Country are over 65—is also experiencing a high frequency of chronic diseases. This combination is causing health costs to skyrocket. For example, 80 percent of patient interactions with the public health system concern chronic diseases and drive 77 percent of total health expenditures. What’s more, health management for patients with multiple chronic conditions, which are more common among the elderly, costs six times as much as those with only one such affliction. Consequently, analysts expect the region’s healthcare costs to double by 2020, outpacing taxable affordability.

Transformational Solution

Because labor accounts for roughly two-thirds of healthcare costs, taking steps to boost productivity in this area makes sense. Working with the Basque Country Health System, a public health provider, Accenture created a multi-channel platform. This platform incorporates telehealth and patient engagement technologies to make the system more productive. The project increased the productive capacity of nurses and extended the reach of physicians by introducing innovations like remote consultations. It also shifted responsibilities to patients, giving them self-service solutions and establishing a home-based, telehealth platform. Called TeKi, the platform makes it possible for care providers to manage chronic diseases from the patient’s home.

TeKi enables doctors to monitor patients remotely and to conduct virtual appointments with them. In the process, physicians gather insights comparable to those captured during face-to-face visits. Likewise, nurses can remotely track and monitor their patients’ progress via the same platform. Combining two familiar technologies—televisions and gaming consoles—TeKi offers user-friendly access to medical staff. Each patient receives a heart-rate monitor and a spirometer for checking respiratory efficiency. Both plug into the system. Used in conjunction with the gaming unit’s motion sensor, TeKi sends the collected data to the doctor in real time. The physician then analyzes it, prescribes treatment and issues prescriptions. All of these activities take place remotely.

The health management platform utilizes Microsoft Kinect’s existing motion-sensing input with various clinical protocols and simulators built into the operating system. By co-opting the gaming system’s technology, TeKi gives patients the confidence to assume more control over their healthcare destinies.

The Impact of Integrating Healthcare IT

With the support of a multi-channel service center, the impact of telehealth and other remote solutions on healthcare costs has been both immediate and substantial. In the first year, this approach actually reversed the trend in annual healthcare cost increases and reduced prescription costs by 2.5 percent. One in five patient interactions with physicians now occurs remotely. What’s more, many physicians can track patient symptoms using remote tools. All told, the TeKi pilot, in combination with the 12 other projects in an overarching initiative, saved USD 55 million by eliminating 52,000 hospital stays.

1. United Nations World Population Prospects 2012 Revision