Healthcare costs are increasing, burdening both employers and employees. At the same time, accessing care has also become more difficult for a variety of reasons. Statistics demonstrate the scale of these problems, and how telemedicine can address them.
Skyrocketing U.S. Healthcare Costs
1. Healthcare spending continues to grow: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) forecasts national health spending will grow at an average rate of 5.5% per year through 2027, outpacing gross domestic product (GDP) growth by nearly 20% over the same time period.
2. Healthcare spending as a percent of GDP: The CMS estimates that, as a share of GDP, healthcare costs, which represented 17.9% of GDP in 2017, will constitute 19.4% by 2027.
Research clearly supports the conclusion that telemedicine and other virtual care offerings are effective alternatives to in-person visits with the potential to save money while increasing access to good healthcare care. Statistics bear this out, as shown below.
Telehealth: Size, Penetration, Quality and Cost Savings
3. Employers offering telemedicine: 91% of employers are expected to offer telemedicine by 2020, according to a First Stop Health survey of midsize to large employers.
4. Low employee telemedicine use: While the vast majority of midsize to large employers offer a telemedicine benefit, less than 2% have used the service, according to Willis Towers Watson’s 2018 Annual Changes Ahead Survey.
5. Demand among millennials: Both penetration and usage will doubtless increase, however, as 40% of millennials said that a telemedicine option was “extremely or very important.” Numbering 83 million, millennials now comprise the largest segment of today’s workforce.
6. Millennials and convenience: Millennials place high value on both ensuring convenience and limiting treatment costs. Just 67% of millennials have a primary care physician, compared with 85% of baby boomers.
7. Care for older adults: Americans are living longer than ever before, and the population of older Americans is growing at an unprecedented rate. Consequently, costs associated with their healthcare needs are expected to strain the healthcare system. The good news? The vast majority of older adults are open to telemedicine, despite assumptions that they would be less willing to use technology.
8. Telemedicine patient satisfaction: 79% of patients said that scheduling a telemedicine follow-up visit was more convenient than arranging an in-person follow-up, according to Massachusetts General Hospital.
9. Quality of care: According to the American Telemedicine Association, “Studies have consistently shown that ...the quality of healthcare services delivered via telemedicine are as good those given in traditional in-person consultations.”
10. Potential annual employer savings: Net cost savings is estimated at $19-$121 per telemedicine visit, depending on where the employee would have otherwise sought care.
Healthcare Costs Rise for Employers and Employees
11. Combined employer and employee costs: Large companies say their total cost of health care, including premiums and out-of-pocket costs for employees and dependents, will increase to $15,375 per employee in 2020, up from $14,642 per employee in 2019, according to the National Business Group on Health.
12. Employers’ share of costs: Annual employer contributions for family coverage have increased, on average, by 50% from 2008 to 2018, from $9,325 to $14,069.
13. Increased burden for employees: After two years without increases, medical costs are expected to rise in 2020. This means the cost per employee will increase, too.
Emergency Room Costs and Avoidable Visits
14. ER costs: The average cost of treating nonemergency conditions (such as bronchitis, dizziness, sore throat and the flu) in the ER is $2,032, which is $1,800 more than in primary care settings.
15. Avoidable ER visits: Two-thirds of ER visits are avoidable, according to a study by UnitedHealth Group. Those unneeded visits cost the system $32 billion.
16. Hospitals drive up costs: Hospital facility fees increase the cost of care by an average of $1,069.
Data illustrates the range and severity of problems patients encounter when seeking care through traditional providers. It is no surprise then that telemedicine is increasingly seen by employees as a desirable benefit.
Problems in Accessing Healthcare
17. Adults without primary care physicians: According to a government survey, 28% of men and 17% of women do not have a primary healthcare provider.
18. Cost-impeded access to care: Half of American adults say they avoided going to the doctor due to costs. For 13% of that group, their condition got worse as a result.
19. Wait time: More than half (53%) of patients surveyed said they left a scheduled doctor’s appointment because the wait was too long.
20. Delaying care: A recent Harris Poll survey found that 23% of people have delayed seeing a doctor because it takes too long, while an additional 13% have delayed a doctor visit because they are too busy.
21. Limited face time with doctors: Burdened with large caseloads and paperwork, doctors spend an average of just 20 minutes with each patient.
22. Long waits for first-time appointments: According to a Merritt Hawkins survey examining 15 major metropolitan areas, the average wait for a new patient to get an appointment with a family medicine doctor is 24.2 days.
23. Shortage of primary care physicians: The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortage of up to 122,000 physicians by 2032. They also predict the country will be short 21,100 and 52,200 primary care physicians by that time.
24. Population density and access to care: The shortage of doctors and longer drives to medical facilities disproportionately affect rural Americans’ access to care. Suburban Americans live an average of 12 minutes from their nearest hospital, while urban Americans live just 10 minutes away. However, rural Americans live an average of 17 minutes from their nearest hospital, with 25% of that group living more than half an hour away.
25. Lack of mental healthcare outside of cities: Rural dwellers also face greater barriers to accessing good behavioral healthcare: 65% of nonmetropolitan counties do not have a psychiatrist, and nearly half do not have a psychologist.