Health IT, Telemedicine

Accenture chimes in on virtual care, data breaches and IoHT

Three surveys from Accenture discuss Americans’ adoption of virtual care, the frequency of data breaches among healthcare consumers and the growing popularity of the Internet of Health Things.

Digital health and hospital blue background as vector illustration

Recently released surveys from Accenture focus on three hot topic areas in the world of healthcare: virtual care, data breaches and the Internet of Health Things.

Virtual care

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About three-fourths of U.S. consumers are willing to use virtual care for their health needs. Yet only one-fifth of consumers are actually using it.

In early February, Accenture released the results of a survey it conducted between September 28 and October 5, 2016, among 1,501 U.S. consumers. The majority of respondents said they would be up to using virtual care. In fact, 70 percent said they would use virtual services for non-urgent conditions like a sore throat, and 76 percent indicated they’d use virtual services for follow-up appointments.

But willingness doesn’t always match reality. Only about one in every five consumers (21 percent) said they’d actually used virtual care services.

Brian Kalis, managing director of digital health and innovation at Accenture, noted there are several barriers preventing more consumers from trying virtual care, such as awareness and availability. “The availability of certain solutions varies by market and region,” he said in a phone interview with MedCity. “Beyond that, people do not know they have access to this kind of information at their fingertips.”

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Widespread adoption isn’t impossible, though. Kalis said increasing awareness of such technologies is crucial and can be especially effective when physicians refer their patients to virtual care. But that isn’t happening too often. “From what we’ve seen, it’s not a common practice for physicians to recommend virtual care services,” Kalis said.

Data breaches

Data breaches among healthcare consumers are fairly common — and costly.

Another survey from Accenture, which included responses from 2,000 Americans, found approximately one in every four U.S. consumers (26 percent) have had their healthcare information breached.

Of those individuals, 50 percent were medical identity theft victims. Thieves used the stolen identities to purchase goods, bill for care or fill prescriptions. Unfortunately for the victims, medical identity theft doesn’t come cheap. On average, victims had to fork over $2,500 in out-of-pocket costs for each incident.

The number of consumer breaches will likely continue to grow, especially as healthcare information is digitized, Kalis said.

Because Accenture found such breaches are most likely to happen in hospital settings, this issue should be top of mind for health systems across the country. To prevent breaches of medical information, Kalis said health systems can take three steps. “A first big step is to ensure that cybersecurity is a board-level priority,” he said. “The next thing would be to conduct a cybersecurity assessment to see where you’re at versus where you need to be.” Finally, health systems should regularly assess and improve their internal training procedures to prevent future attacks.

IoHT

It’s not just the Internet of Things that’s coming. It’s also the Internet of Health Things.

This was the topic of a brand new survey from Accenture. Unsurprisingly, IoHT differs slightly from IoT. Accenture defined it as “the integration of the physical and digital worlds through objects with network connectivity in the healthcare industry.”

Conducted by McGuire Research, the survey included responses from 77 U.S. healthcare payers and 77 U.S. healthcare providers between January 29 and February 19, 2016. Among respondents, 73 percent indicated IoHT will be a disruptive force within the next three years. But its implications are not completely understood by leadership — only 49 percent of executives said their leadership comprehends the broader meaning of IoHT.

The survey also asked respondents what their IoHT investment in remote patient monitoring is focused on. Though 76 percent of providers and 77 percent of payers said cardiac care, a surprising amount (48 percent of providers and 55 percent of payers) said their RPM IoHT investments are focused on mental and behavioral health.

Despite positivity about IoHT, Kalis said barriers like privacy, legacy systems technology immaturity still prevent extensive adoption of IoHT.

Photo: a-image, Getty Images