Funding for on-demand health care companies—those providing location-based offerings with nearly real-time and 24/7 services—will quadruple in the coming years, from $250 million to more than $1 billion in investment capital by 2017, according to a report from Accenture.
The number of on-demand health companies has spiked from four in 2010, to 42 in 2014, with annual investment growing at an annual rate of 224 percent over the same period.
Funding for primary care services alone has totaled more than $639 million since 2010, and within the same timeframe, on-demand specialty care, behavioral health, wellness and veterinary companies received a total of $68 million in U.S. funding.
"Digital technologies enable patients and providers to quickly and easily access data and information that can ultimately help improve outcomes and reduce costs," Kaveh Safavi, senior managing director for Accenture’s global healthcare business, told eWEEK. "For example, on-demand, virtual visits cost 40 percent less than the cost of the average visit to a primary care physician, 26 percent less than the cost of an average urgent care visit and 4 percent less than the cost of the average emergency room visit."
According to Accenture’s research, one of the main forces driving interest and investment in on-demand health care is technology maturation. Roughly 190 million people in the U.S. own smartphones, and as the number of mobile users rises, so too will the demand for mobile health services.
"Consumers of all ages expect seamless, coordinated services and on-demand convenience and connectivity," Safavi said. "As investments in on-demand healthcare continue to accelerate, breakthroughs will disrupt the market and new, higher standards for service delivery will push companies to mature and accept the digital era at a much faster rate."
He explained this era will highlight technologies such as video visits with physicians, mobile patient information sharing, virtual therapies and on-demand requests for in-person health-related services, noting these services stand to make health care cheaper, quicker and more convenient.
The study also indicated payers want to create best-in-class benefits packages with new products and services that will attract, retain or excite members, and on-demand services can be the differentiator.
"There is an interesting dichotomy that exists as technology and tools have been created that can improve health tracking – and in some cases--outcomes--but require patients to share more of their personal data and potential risk losing privacy," Safavi said. "For some patients, the benefit of sharing the information outweighs the risks, but others are more wary and expect that management of their personal data is protected and secure."