Digital Health Solutions Could Save U.S. Billions

The Accenture report also predicts that FDA approvals of digital health solutions will triple by the end of 2018, to 100, from 33 last year.

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Digital health solutions regulated by the Food and Drug Administration are expected to save the U.S. health care system more than $100 billion over the next four years, according to a report from Accenture.

The report estimates that FDA-approved digital health solutions, which Accenture defines as Internet-connected devices or software created for the detection or treatment of a medical indication, achieved $6 billion in cost savings in 2014.

Accenture expects that figure to rise to $10 billion in 2015, $18 billion in 2016, $30 billion in 2017 and $50 billion in 2018.

The report also predicts that FDA approvals of digital health solutions will triple by the end of 2018, to 100, from 33 last year.

"As the barriers between consumer devices and clinical devices blur –and as the FDA becomes more willing to approve new and innovative devices – mobile and traditional health IT tools will inevitably influence each other and grow to provide both consumers and clinicians improved functionality," Rick Ratliff, managing director for Accenture's digital health solutions, told eWEEK. "A recent survey from Accenture found one in four U.S. physicians routinely use tele-monitoring devices for some aspect of chronic disease management, and I expect this type of care to become more prevalent across many physician specialties."

Accenture estimates the number of U.S. consumers who own a wearable fitness device will double in the next five years, from 22 percent this year to 43 percent by 2020.

Another recent Accenture survey found that over half (57 percent) of U.S. consumers self-track their health information online, such as medical history (cited by 37 percent of respondents), physical activity (34 percent) and symptoms (33 percent).

"As the FDA approves more and more connected devices, innovation will inspire even more innovation and ultimately, we will move toward improved options and functionalities for patients and the people that care for them," Ratliff said. "In addition, value-based reimbursement will likely encourage development of additional clinical and business strategies that incorporate these digital health devices."

The report also noted that a shift to value-based reimbursement is creating fertile ground for clinical and business strategies that incorporate [digital health] devices. Accenture estimates digital health funding will reach $6.5 billion by 2018.

"In the more traditional clinical realm, it’s too soon to tell who will be a clear leader of digital health solutions, but a number of companies are showing compelling evidence, such as improving medication adherence, sustaining behavioral changes and reducing emergency room visits," Ratliff said.

He pointed to Proteus Digital Health, which integrates a tiny, inert sensor in pills it manufactures: the sensor acts in concert with a wearable device and mobile app to provide full adherence transparency for patients, health-care providers and payers.

The hardware-based system not only determines when patients take their medications and it can also take action if they forget to take a pill, by sending them a simple reminder.