Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Telemedicine could deliver $6 billion in annual savings for US companies: Towers Watson

Iain Morris
August 20, 2014
Telemedicine technology could deliver more than $6 billion a year in healthcare savings to US companies, according to a new study from professional services company Towers Watson.

However, to realize that level of savings, all employees and their dependents would have to use the technology-enabled interactions available today in place of face-to-face visits to the doctor, urgent care center or emergency room.

“While this analysis highlights a maximum potential savings, even a significantly lower level of use could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in savings,” said Allan Khoury, a senior consultant at Towers Watson (New York City, NY, USA). “Achieving this savings requires a shift in patient and physician mindsets, health plan willingness to integrate and reimburse such services, and regulatory support in all states.”

According to a survey that supported the Towers Watson study, some 37% of employers expect to offer their employees telemedicine consultations as a low-cost alternative to emergency room or physician office visits for non-emergency health issues, while another 34% are considering offering telemedicine for 2016 or 2017.

Falling costs and an increase in the number of insurance companies supporting telemedicine will spur take-up of the technology.

Nevertheless, even among employers that offer such programs, utilization is currently low, with vendors generally claiming per-member utilization of less than 10%, according to Khoury.

“With both insurance companies and employers encouraging its use, telemedicine is going to have a growing role in the spectrum of health care service delivery,” said Khoury. “We’re also likely to see that it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Telemedicine is just one piece of a broader telehealth spectrum that includes video, apps, kiosks, virtual visits, wearable devices and other advancements,” he added.
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