Healthcare’s Dollar Solution Here, Just Needs to Take Flight

Published on Wired Innovation Insights Blog on 1/16/2013. Written by Jock Putney

Wired Innovation Insights It is no secret that healthcare spending in the U.S. is growing at a disproportionate rate to actual healthcare improvements. Take a snapshot of diabetes for example. According to a recent report, diabetes spending alone is projected to reach $336 billion by 2034, with costs ranging from $443 to $15,000 per patient, per year depending on the type of diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions. Again, those are the costs for just one disease.

Time after time research points to preventative measures for high risk patients that encourage lifestyle changes to combat these costs. Over the past several years, various industry stakeholders including providers, insurers and employers have calculated the ROI of patient-engagement resources that emphasize wellness and the figures are impressive. Looking at a cross-sector analysis of four studies all conducted in the past decade, from Hallmark, Inc, Hawaii Medical Service Association, Midwest Regional Hospital as well as an analysis of several other well-publicized case studies and peer-reviewed meta-analyses, various wellness programs dedicated toward disease management, prevention and population health improvement have led to direct, measurable savings.

The research shows a clear return on investment in programs that address those costs directly through encouraging patients to get engaged in their health in simple ways. Take those disease management programs online and engagement becomes even simpler and ROI only increases as demonstrated by a Blue Cross Blue Shield – the average ROI calculated in that study amounted to a $9.81 return for every dollar spent. $9:1.

Factor the results from all of these studies, and it amounts to an average of $420 in healthcare savings per patient per year – a $4.51 return for every dollar spent to build and implement patient engagement programs.

So if patient engagement programs are reducing costs and improving care, with web-based models generating the highest ratio of cost reduction and care improvement, when will providers start flocking to implement them?

We are at a place where patients can engage with each other and become active players in their own care. Other studies have shown that nearly half of all patients with chronic conditions will turn to their friends and families for advice.

With average savings of $420 each year per patient from the solutions in the first wave, why haven’t we all received a notice from our primary care providers during our annual check-up that this resource is available? There is a concern about the amount of information available on the web that has not been properly vetted, as many of these communities lack involvement from licensed clinicians. Clinicians should feel confident that their community of care is reflective of the support they hope to provide and matches clinical direction to ensure positive health outcomes.

The leading and more innovative provider facilities (teaching centers, learning hospitals, etc.) have taken the charge in this space, tapping into those cost savings and putting these valuable resources back into the system. These leaders have clearly demonstrated this is not the future. It’s the reality – now. The supportive data exists and we need everyone else to follow suit in order to move forward.

So who’s next?

Jock Putney is a 15+ year healthcare information technology veteran that has been involved in the development and deployment of practice management and electronic health records systems.

Published on Wired Innovation Insights Blog on 1/16/2013. Written by Jock Putney