Replacing doctor's visits with apps could save us $104 billion a year

Going to the doctor’s office is expensive.

Not only is there the cost of co-pays, but the cost of travelling to the office and the time taken out of the day to do so can add up.

In a lot of cases checking in on minor issues, like a rash or nausea, doesn’t even require the doctor to look at the symptom and listen to the patient.

What if you could cut out the office visit?

According to research done by Goldman Sachs, moving those minor doctor visits from the brick and mortar offices to video conference platforms, similar to Skype or FaceTime, would reduce healthcare costs by around $US104 billion per year.

According to a 2010 National Ambulatory Medicare Survey, the average American visits the doctor 3.32 times each year. Factoring in the healthcare system’s increasing size due to the Affordable Care Act, Goldman Sachs analysts David Roman and Kyle Conlee estimated that this number has increased to approximately 4.0 since then. That’s a total 1.3 billion doctor visits every year.

“Going to the doctor is both expensive and inconvenient. Further, of the over 1.3 billion physician office visits annually, our industry diligence suggests that close to half of them do not require doctor/patient contact,” wrote Roman and Conlee.

This is where computers come in. Services such as Doctor on Demand and American Well allow patients to use their phones or computers to video chat with doctors face-to-face without going to the office. This saves a lot of money, a Doctor on Demand call costs $US40 all told, while traditional visits average $US200 total, meaning it could cut costs by 75%.

The platform is also gaining widespread acceptance. On April 30, United Healthcare, the largest health insurance provider in the country, announced that it had partnered with the three largest healthcare video conferencing companies and has begun to cover the costs of the video visits.

Roman and Conlee do accept that this technology is not a substitute for many doctor visits and patients trusting digital platforms could be a hurdle.

The quicker the adoption, the quicker the savings for the healthcare industry and consumers will add up. With intense focus on cutting healthcare costs, videoconferencing with a doctor is a multibillion dollar solution already available on the AppStore.

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