Big Savings From Digital Health, Per New Study

It’s easy to visit Apple’s App Store or the Google Play store and feel overwhelmed by the number of health-related apps now available for download. Indeed, apps can do everything from providing infant care and health tips to new parents, to assisting in managing diabetes, to helping users track weight loss. Now, new research is highlighting the potential that the usage of these apps has to save millions of dollars in health care costs, as well as to improve clinical outcomes. As Healthcare IT News first reported, a study from researchers at the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science identified significant potential cost savings, particularly among chronic disease patients, while also examining some of the utilization barriers that continue to exist.

The researchers identified an overwhelming increase in the number of health-related apps available to users, with more than 318,000 now ready for download, and “more than 200 health apps being added each day.” Wearable devices, too, are increasingly popular. Focusing in particular on chronic disease management, the researchers see even greater potential: “The use of such digital health apps in just five patient populations where they have proven reductions in acute care utilization (diabetes prevention, diabetes, asthma, cardiac rehabilitation and pulmonary rehabilitation) could save the U.S. health care system an estimated $7 billion per year,” they note. “If this level of savings could be extrapolated across total national health expenditure, annual cost savings of $46 billion could be achieved.”

But at the same time, “a number of barriers still exist to widespread adoption by patient care institutions, and only an intermediate level of adoption has yet occurred,” the researchers note. More specifically, the download of mHealth apps is heavily skewed toward a small number of them, with only 41 accounting for about half of all downloads. Further, there are still concerns about privacy and security that prevent some patients and clinicians from using apps. This is in keeping with the findings of other studies pointing to the potential of mHealth and wearables to improve patient health, as well as some of the challenges that patients and providers still face with them. Earlier this year, for example, we highlighted a Medical News Today piece in which providers interviewed saw potential in the adoption of mHealth, remote monitoring, and wearable devices for patients with chronic disease, but reported that they were still attempting to overcome issues related to patient access. “Those individuals that are in most need of these services are often the least likely to have the resources necessary to take full advantage of these programs,” Dr. Judith Marcin, a family physician, told the publication at the time.

Click here to read the Healthcare IT News article on the digital health study.

Click here to read the IQVIA report on cost savings from digital health.

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