Deloitte: Virtual doctor visits reach inflection point

22 August 2014 3 min. read

Rising healthcare costs and improved technology could cause an inflection point in the global adoption of eVisits. Research by Deloitte shows that almost one in six doctor visits will be virtual this year. These eVisits will not only save patients and doctors’ time, but are expected to save the healthcare industry up to $5 billion. In addition, eVisits will also benefit the technology and telecommunications sectors.

With healthcare costs rising year in and year out, governments and other players in the health care industry are forced to find ways to provide more cost-effective care. According to consulting firm Deloitte, this year the worldwide cost of in-person visits worldwide will be $175 billion. One of the ways to reduce these costs, is to make better use of available technologies. Providing patients the option of eVisits, also known as virtual doctor visits, as an alternative to actual doctor visits, could potentially save up to $5 billion, states Deloitte.

With eVisits, potential patients are able to get advice in the comfort of their own home. They will consult a doctor via the internet using a computer, laptop, tablet or even smartphone. Doctors and patients will be able to exchange information through the use of electronic documents, photos, emails or texts. In addition, patients will be able to communicate with their doctor via the telephone and videoconferences. “For example, patients with symptoms of certain illnesses such as sinusitis, strep throat, allergies, bladder infection or acne would complete an online form and then receive a diagnosis and, if required, a prescription,” states Deloitte.

Deloitte - Virtual doctor visits reach inflection point

According to the research of Deloitte, this year, around 100 million eVisits will occur globally, which is a steep 400% growth since 2012. This growth is partly caused by the improvement of internet services; people are getting more comfortable with virtual doctor visits. In addition, older users of the internet, who account for the majority of doctor visits, are getting more familiar and adept with technology. Not all in-person visits are replaceable with eVisits, but Deloitte estimates the global eVisits market be worth $50 billion to $60 billion, which is 30-40% of all doctor consultations.

Not only patients will benefit
Most attention surrounding eVisits is focussed on the benefits for patients; eVisits will save time and money, but eVisits will also have significant benefits for doctors, Deloitte says. Helping doctors to understand these benefits, will be key to the overall adoption of eVisits. Since most eVisits will involve patients filling out forms and questionnaires online, instead of actually talking to the doctor via the phone or videoconferencing, the doctors involved will have more time to spend on complex problems that do require a face-to-face consultation.

In addition to the more obvious beneficiaries, the patients and the healthcare industry, a global adoption of eVisits will also benefit the technology and telecommunications sectors. Developers of devices and apps will benefit due to a growing demand for data volumes, high-speed broadband and machine-to-machine connectivity both for wired and wireless online networks.