PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) releases a new report, Healthcare delivery of the future: How digital technology can bridge the gap of time and distance between clinicians and consumers. The report reveals a shift in attitudes among clinicians, suggesting an increased openness toward using digital technology, and offers detailed recommendations for how healthcare companies, clinicians, and new entrants can harness developing technologies to benefit patients and the industry.
“Digitally-enabled care is no longer nice-to-have, it’s fundamental for delivering high quality care,” said Daniel Garrett, health information technology practice leader, PwC US. “Just as the banking and retail sectors today use data and technology to improve efficiency, raise quality, and expand services, healthcare must either do the same or lose patients to their competitors who do so.”
As part of its research, HRI surveyed 1,000 industry leaders, physicians, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants, including members of the board of the eHealth Initiative, finding that caregivers and consumers share similar views on how digital technology can:
- Put diagnostic testing of basic conditions into the hands of patients: About 42 percent of physicians are comfortable relying on at-home test results to prescribe medication.
- Increase patient-clinician interaction: Half of physicians said that e-visits could replace more than 10 percent of in-office patient visits, and nearly as many consumers indicated they would communicate with caregivers online.
- Promote self-management of chronic disease using health apps: 28 percent of consumers said they have a healthcare, wellness, or medical app on their mobile device, up from 16 percent last year. Roughly two-thirds of physicians said they would prescribe an app to help patients manage chronic diseases such as diabetes.
- Help caregivers work more as a team: Nearly half of consumers and 79 percent of physicians believe using mobile devices can help clinicians better coordinate care.
Twenty percent of American adults already own a wearable technology device and the adoption rate – on par with tablets in 2012 – is quickly expected to rise, according to PwC’s Consumer Intelligence Series – The Wearable Future report – an extensive U.S. research project that surveyed 1,000 consumers, wearable technology influencers and business executives, as well as monitored social media chatter, to explore the technology’s impact on society and business. In the last three decades, PwC has examined how technological innovation plays an increasingly prominent role in helping brands set themselves apart in their respective industries and how wearable technology can offer brands an opportunity to establish themselves, particularly in the entertainment, media and communications (EMC), health, retail and technology industries. In conjunction with The Wearable Future report, PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) launched a separate report, Health wearables: Early days, further examining consumers’ attitudes and behaviors toward health wearable technology.
While fitness bands, smart watches and other wearables are already established in the market, many of them have under-delivered on expectations. Consider that 33 percent of surveyed consumers who purchased a wearable technology device more than a year ago now say they no longer use the device at all or use it infrequently. Price, privacy, security, and the lack of “actionable” and inconsistent information from such devices are among consumers’ main apprehensions with the bourgeoning category. In fact, 82 percent of respondents were worried that wearable technology would invade their privacy and 86 percent expressed concern that wearables would make them more vulnerable to security breaches.
That said, 53 percent of millennials and 54 percent of early adopters say they are excited about the future of wearable tech. Among the top three potential benefits:
- Improved safety: Ninety percent of consumers expressed that the ability for parents to keep children safe via wearable technology is important.
- Healthier living: More than 80 percent of consumers listed eating healthier, exercising smarter and accessing more convenient medical care as important benefits of wearable technology.
- Simplicity and ease of use: Eighty-three of respondents cited simplification and improved ease of technology as a key benefit of wearable technology.
And for wearable technology to be most valuable to the consumer, it needs to embrace Internet of Things opportunities; transform big data into super data that not only culls, but also interprets information to deliver insights; and take a human-centered design approach, creating a simplified user experience and an easier means to achieve goals.
“Businesses must evolve their existing mobile-first strategy to now include the wearable revolution and deliver perceived value to the consumer in an experiential manner,” said Deborah Bothun, PwC’s U.S. advisory entertainment, media & communications leader. “Relevance is the baseline, but then there is a consumer list of requirements to enable interaction with the brand in a mobile and wearable environment.”
After a five-year contraction in employer healthcare spending growth, medical inflation in the U.S. is projected to rise to 6.8 percent in 2015, according to PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI). In its annual report, Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers, HRI projects that the stronger economy is now reaching the health sector, releasing a pent-up demand for care and services. Despite some higher utilization and the cost of expensive new cures, the higher expected growth rate in 2015 is modest compared to the double-digit annual increases seen throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, the fact that health spending continues to outpace GDP underscores the need for a renewed focus on productivity, efficiency and ultimately delivering better value for healthcare customers.
Confident consumers are spending more freely on healthcare because of the improved economy, as well as increasing numbers of newly insured, and HRI expects that trend to continue through next year. In addition, the high costs of specialty drugs will increase the healthcare spending growth rate, according to HRI. As exemplified by new Hepatitis C therapies, which are estimated to have a big cost impact next year – responsible for a 0.2 percent increase in spending growth – drug development continues to play an inflationary role in the short run. However, over the long-term, these innovative new therapies may improve quality of life and reduce other medical costs. Other inflationary factors identified by HRI are shifts to higher payments for physician practices acquired by hospitals and health systems, and IT integration investments for large-scale health system mergers and acquisitions.
“Due to a demand for value and increased efficiency in the healthcare industry, medical inflation will be modest this year” said Kelly Barnes, PwC’s U.S. health industries leader. “It is still too early to tell whether the drive for transparency and better value for each healthcare dollar – the cornerstone of the new health economy – will be able to temper spending growth once millions of newly insured access the healthcare system.”
The report notes that additional factors are helping to moderate the growth rate. Three factors holding down spending growth include:
• Healthcare providers gaining efficiencies through ‘systemness’ – streamlining administrative activities and standardizing clinical programs to eliminate redundancies and lower operating costs
• Cost-conscious consumer shopping brought about by employees shouldering more of the financial responsibility for their healthcare
• Risk-based contracts in which healthcare providers are held accountable for patient outcomes
After accounting for likely changes in benefit design, such as higher deductibles and narrow networks, HRI projects a net growth rate of 4.8 percent in 2015. Benefit design changes typically hold down spending growth by shifting financial responsibility to consumers, who often choose less expensive options.