Anyone who has recently been sick knows that the cost of healthcare is high. In fact, healthcare spending in the United States is twice as much as it is in any other developed countries. And, as medical providers, we know that we're in no way benefitting from these high costs to consumers and the system. In fact, as overall costs rise, we as providers are simply increasingly squeezed to do more with less, faster.
So it is puzzling (and maybe hopeful) to read reports that health spending is actually slowing down significantly. The New York Times has been reporting that health spending in 2013 grew at the lowest rate since government officials started tracking it — back in 1960. The slowdown in health spending growth began over ten years ago, and has been especially pronounced in the last four years.
Some studies attribute this decrease in health spending to the overall recession, but many analysts say that it's not just about the economy. In fact, the New York Times, identifies several key components of this decrease, all of which are elements we see as strongly supported by medical collaboration and the use of telemedicine:
- Decrease in hospital spending. It seems that instead of going straight to the hospital, people may be getting care in their doctor's office or other lower-cost settings. We've seen telemedicine support this kind of patient behavior, as providers can get consults from specialists or other providers without the patient having to make additional appointments.
- Reduction in readmissions. Readmissions have long been singled out as a major opportunity for cost savings. And as we've looked at in other posts, medical collaboration (especially as supported by telemedicine) can be fundamental to managing readmissions.
- Drop in errors. The final potential cause for the decrease in medical spending is a decrease in errors. Over and over again, we've seen errors decrease when providers can support each other in making good decisions, doing follow up care, and getting the help they need.
Of course, none of these reasons are proven or conclusive. But we do breathe a small sigh of relief that the efforts of so many in changing medicine may be starting to show results.
See how telemedicine can affect your ROI by giving it a try today:
Image courtesy of chazoid on Flickr, used under Creative Commons rights.