- The business case for “digital-first” healthcare models appears to be rapidly coalescing. Research from professional services firm Accenture indicates that companies are leveraging an emerging parcel of health IT infrastructure — connected devices in closed-loop environments — to deliver new care experiences to consumers.
In a report titled “Healthcare: For here or to go,” published on Feb. 2, Accenture estimates the U.S. funding for so-called “on-demand healthcare companies” — which provide location-based offerings with near-real-time and 24/7 services — will spike four-fold from over $200 million in 2014 to $1 billion by the end of 2017.
“On-demand healthcare is fundamentally changing — and enriching — the doctor-patient relationship, making the physician much more accessible to patients while simultaneously reducing costs,” said Kaveh Safavi, MD, JD, senior managing director for Accenture’s global health business, in a public statement. “With no end to this type of investment in sight, there’s an enormous opportunity for companies to offer fast, convenient and customized user experiences that ultimately improve the patient experience and outcomes.”
On-demand companies collectively have raised more than $12.5 billion in funding since 2000, according to Accenture, from sectors as diverse as automotive, food and drink, household chores and professional services. Healthcare, which represents one-fifth of total U.S funding, trails only the transportation industry among the fastest growing on-demand sectors.
Accenture’s research shows that the number of on-demand health care companies jumped from just four in 2010 to 42 in 2014. Investment grew at an annual rate of more than 220 percent during that timespan, with the following allocation by healthcare segment: primary care, $639 million; wellness, $21 million; behavioral health, $19 million; specialty care, $15 million; and consumables, $12 million.
Accenture’s report highlights the driving forces behind investment on on-demand healthcare:
- Large payers are reimbursing for virtual doctor’s appointments, with 29 states having telehealth parity laws — up from 20 in 2014.
- Virtual visits are 40 percent less expensive for consumers than in-person visits for primary care, 28 percent less expensive for urgent care and up to 7 percent less expensive for emergency room visits.
- Technology has matured in the form of services accessible by smartphones. Roughly 190 million people in the U.S own smartphones, fueling demand for additional mobile health services.
- Adoption of enabling technology spans across generations, with 57 percent of seniors indicating interest in digital health options.
- On-demand services can be a differentiator for payers looking to enhance benefits packages with products that will attract and retain members.
“Investment in on-demand healthcare and collaboration between industries will ultimately precipitate a shift away from a goods-and-services model to a life-care model, providing patients with personalized services that address a multitude of daily needs,” said Safavi.
Accenture expects breakthroughs in on-demand care to disrupt the healthcare market, creating new social interactions and experiences.
“New, higher standards for service delivery will require organizations to shed old ways of approaching healthcare, and rapidly accept the digital era,” the report concludes.
The firm said it collated the funding data in the report from a number of primary and secondary sources.