Technology continues to make healthcare more accessible, affordable, efficient and effective. Patients and doctors alike are embracing the power of healthcare technology to consume and deliver care in new ways. The changes happening are both exciting—and complex. Let’s look back at some of the shifts that captured our attention in 2016.
The Accenture 2016 Survey on Patient Engagement illustrated that today’s patients want a heavy dose of digital. Use of health apps has doubled in the past two years(33 percent in 2016 versus 16 percent in 2014) among consumers in the United States who use technology to manage their health. Use of health wearables has also doubled in the United States. More than three-quarters of healthcare consumers wear, or are willing to wear, technology to track their lifestyle and/or vital signs—and both consumers (77 percent) and doctors (85 percent) agree that using wearables helps a patient engage in their health.
On demand is in demand
The way people consume healthcare today is also changing, with the help of digital. Consumers are yearning for convenience, simplicity, speed and immediate satisfaction. A deluge of digital-first companies are answering the call, offering closed-loop, human-delivered experiences to the consumer in near real time.
From 2000 to present, more than 230 on-demand companies have raised a total of $12.5 billion. Surprising to most, Health represents the second fastest growing on-demand segment. The number of on-demand health service companies has spiked from four in 2010, to 42 in 2014, with annual investment growing at a CAGR of 224 percent over the same time period.
The industry is transitioning from “healthcare” to “lifecare” through faster, cheaper more convenient services—and this new way of working calls for healthcare organizations to rapidly accept the digital era.
Technology is turning the page with care delivery
Technology has certainly influenced consumer expectations for services, and it is rapidly changing how providers deliver healthcare services. One major opportunity for improving care delivery is virtual health. Virtual health uses telemedicine, telehealth and collaboration at-a-distance to connect clinicians, patients, care teams and health professionals to serve patients.
By shifting some work to patients, replacing labor with technology and automating tasks, virtual health can streamline clinical work, decrease demand for primary care providers and focus clinical time in areas where their experience and training have the greatest value.
Accenture analysis shows that applying virtual health to annual ambulatory patient encounters can save each US PCP an average of five minutes per encounter. This is a time savings equivalent to as many as 37,000 PCPs—or 18 percent of the PCP workforce—with an economic value of more than $7 billion annually across the US health system.
Healthcare organizations today also need a more fluid workforce with agile skill sets that can go to where help is needed. These workforce changes come with benefits. Continuous skill development allows organizations to launch innovations and differentiated services faster. And, virtual care gives patients the convenient and accessible care they want, when and where they want it.
The healthcare industry has historically remained unaffected by the transformative impacts of exponential technologies, given heavy regulation and reliance on expert labor. Not anymore. Technology is affecting all parts of the healthcare value chain, and all signs are pointing to a big disruption of the healthcare industry.