Costs could be cut by $7 billion a year through the use of apps and wearables that have been shown to reduce healthcare expenses in diabetes prevention, diabetes care, asthma, cardiac rehabilitation and pulmonary rehabilitation.

A new report is putting some hard numbers to the amount of money digital and mobile technology can save the U.S. health system annually.

Costs could be cut by $7 billion a year through the use of apps and wearables that have been shown to reduce healthcare expenses in diabetes prevention, diabetes care, asthma, cardiac rehabilitation and pulmonary rehabilitation. That savings represents about 1.4% of the total cost of serving these patient populations, says the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. If that level of savings could be achieved across all disease areas, annual cost savings from digital and mobile healthcare could reach an estimated $46 billion, according to the healthcare research institute.

The growing number of healthcare trials that use digital and mobile technology is another indicator of the potential of that technology to produce significant cost savings.

Those savings are possible in part because consumers are using healthcare apps more regularly as the apps improve, says IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science executive director Murray Aitken. For example, 55% of apps that launched within the past two years have ratings higher than four stars, compared to 31% of those launched before 2015. “With clear market-leading apps in many health categories, developers getting low star ratings may either remove apps more rapidly from the store or invest more continuously in updates based on user feedback—increasing the value of available apps to the consumer,” the institute says. “App stores have also begun removing low-quality apps, including those that are outdated, abandoned, no longer meet current guidelines or don’t function as intended.”

The growing number of healthcare trials that use digital and mobile technology is another indicator of the potential of that technology to produce significant cost savings. For example, 860 clinical trials worldwide now incorporate digital health tools, including 540 in the U.S. Two-thirds of those trials are focused on apps and text message interventions sent to smartphones. 82% of these trials are sponsored by universities, hospitals, health systems and other patient care institutions, which the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science says demonstrates the increased efforts to  incorporate digital health into clinical practice.

“The research suggests an inflection point is occurring within digital health trends regarding innovation, evidence and adoption,” Aitken says. “The convergence of those three digital drivers combined with other macro factors, aligns with the development of the newly defined, and emerging discipline of human data science that combines advances in information, transformative technology and analytics with human data beyond the patient journey to measure and improve health decisions and outcomes.”

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Within the foreseeable future digital and mobile tools will become mainstream in healthcare delivery, the institute says. “Investments by healthcare and provider organizations in digital health continue to grow, with an estimated 20% of large health networks shifting from pilot programs to more full-scale rollouts,” says the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. “Within the next five years, this progression is likely to be true for most healthcare companies and, within 10 years, the use of digital health is likely to be mainstream for most organizations delivering human health.”

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