It’s the universal challenge that faces healthcare providers around the world: the rising cost to provide quality care. But with the ever-expanding offerings of e-Health, those willing to jump into the digital health world are finding the answers they need.
The global e-Health market is estimated at US$96 billion, and is growing throughout the world. Including telemedicine and a number of other digital health specialties, e-Health offers unique solutions to decrease costs in the GCC. In a recent report, “The Digital Dimension of Health Care”, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) highlighted the potential for digital technologies to increase productivity efficiencies for the GCC region.
“Today’s technologies readily enable the analysis of quantitative and outcomes-based data across large population groups, allowing online and video consultations and providing intelligent self-diagnosis and self-management tools…a number of developments stand out as they have been proven to work in real life scenarios and are particularly promising for potential application in the GCC region,” said Kapil Bhatia, Principal, Boston Consulting Group.
Much of the attractiveness of e-Health and telemedicine have to do with the ability to increase access to care for those in remote regions - which both improves care quality and decreases costs.
According to a telehealth report published in February 2014 and performed by the Center for Connected Health, telehealth was noted to increase access and efficiencies related to complex care needs, as well as lower the cost of care delivery. According to researchers in the study,
“We suspect that a key advantage of telehealth is the ability to support the delivery of more-complex care as well as more efficient care. The former is likely of particular value to teaching hospitals that may consult on the treatment of patients with complex conditions located in areas with limited access to specialists. The latter may be of particular value to hospitals in more competitive markets that seek technologies to help lower the cost of care delivery, such as teleradiology and eICUs.”
Already in place in many areas in the GCC, the continued expansion of e-health systems and implementations will continue to improve healthcare delivery and decrease costs.
e-Health is recognized throughout the world as an important solution for addressing the overwhelming burden of healthcare needs that countries face. During its 58th World Health Assembly, the World Health Organization (WHO) created a resolution stressing that
“eHealth is the cost-effective and secure use of information and communications technologies in support of health and health-related fields, including health-care services, health surveillance, health literature, and health education, knowledge and research.”
e-Health and telemedicine have the potential to improve the healthcare experience in a vast number of ways, depending upon the technology in use. When interwoven with other digital health specialties, such as m-Health and Health IT, its potential increases exponentially. The following provide examples of available benefits that help to decrease healthcare costs:
- Improved efficiency of care by providing practitioners with readily available support tools
- Increased support for consumers to be more involved in preventative care
- Improved care coordination by allowing all providers involved with a single patient to practice based on a single, comprehensive electronic health record – thus decreasing costs due to repetitive tests and treatments
- Increased access to care through wireless technology that decreases the need to build expensive facilities in remote areas, or pay specialists to travel to these regions
“Amid rising expenses, an aging population and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, the healthcare industry must change the way it operates. Telehealth represents an attractive solution to these challenges, increasing the quality of care while reducing overall healthcare expenditures.”
In fact, a recent study found that 42% of U.S. hospitals use some type of telehealth approach – with good reason. One telemonitoring study linked to congestive heart failure found that hospital readmissions decreased by 44 percent, which led to $10 million in savings over six years.
While various renditions of telehealth have been around for some time, common barriers have limited its full potential. These include healthcare providers who are unwilling to change practice habits, lack of consumer engagement, and paltry reimbursement structures.
However, as noted by the expected global rise in patient use of telehealth from less than 350,000 in 2013 to approximately seven million in 2018, consumers are certainly becoming more engaged. Practitioners today are more technologically savvy and open to innovation than many of their older counterparts, and telehealth revenue is expected to grow tenfold over the next five years as reimbursement structures continue to improve.
As government leaders and healthcare providers around the world face the daunting task of meeting rapidly rising healthcare needs, they face increasing pressure to find ways to provide quality care in a cost-effective manner.
In the GCC, the situation is no different, and is intensified by a sense of urgency to address the unique issues facing consumers and healthcare systems in this region. When applied creatively and appropriately, optimized e-health and telehealth solutions can provide needed answers for the rising costs of healthcare. The continued adoption of such initiatives in the GCC will result in a myriad of benefits for leaders and providers – and more importantly, for the patients who need them most.