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Digital care may not drive down health care spending: PwC

·Senior Reporter
·3 min read

A recent PwC report on medical cost trends for 2022 found that the pandemic changed how Americans access health care, causing a shift "large enough to influence multiple aspects of price and utilization and, thus, medical cost trend."

But the shift didn't isn't going to permanently shift health care spend. 

PwC's Health Research Institute (HRI) is projecting a 6.5% medical cost trend in 2022, slightly lower than the 7% medical cost trend in 2021 and slightly higher than it was between 2016 and 2020. In particular, telehealth and digital health services have been lauded as helping drive down costs — with a caveat.

"It's a lower cost site of care...but it also has caused a lot of spending in terms of trying to build up that digital connection between consumers and the providers and other health care providers. So you have this kind of infrastructure being built that had been sort of worked on before, but now with the huge explosion in telehealth and remote patient monitoring, there's a lot more need to spend on that," Trine Tsouderos, director of PwC's Health Research Institute, told Yahoo Finance Live. 

Some specialties in health care saw a rebound to pre-pandemic levels for in-person care, while others are likely to maintain the boom that was seen during the pandemic, Tsouderos said. 

"I think it's a mixed bag. The simple story that's been told that it's all going to be cost savings — our research shows it isn't just across the board," Tsouderos said.

A monitor shows intensive care physician Judith Ibba at the University hospital in Aachen as she speaks during an online meeting about a COVID-19 case while using telemedicine on January 26, 2021 at the Bethlehem Hospital in Stolberg, western Germany, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. - To discuss the most serious Covid-19 cases, Andreas Bootsveld is not alone. In addition to colleagues in his intensive care unit, he can draw on the advice of several experts.
However, this panel of specialists is not on the clinic premises, but some 20 kilometres away. Telemedicine, which is carried out via videoconference visits, is accelerating with the pandemic. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
A monitor shows intensive care physician Judith Ibba at the University hospital in Aachen as she speaks during an online meeting about a COVID-19 case while using telemedicine on January 26, 2021 at the Bethlehem Hospital in Stolberg, western Germany (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

Supply management

Traditional points of care have also had to spend big in order to brace for more changes. That includes ensuring that the severe shortages that endangered the lives of health care workers on the frontlines never get repeated. 

While the manufacturing industry is focused on more production of supplies at home— which began during the Trump administration and has been maintained as a priority by the Biden-Harris administration— hospitals and health service sites have to focus on how to ensure better monitoring of those supplies.

"We've got a whole host of spending that's happening, coming out of the pandemic, to prepare health systems and the rest of the health industry for perhaps the next pandemic or the next disruption. I think the pandemic kind of raised everyone's awareness that you have to think through these big disruptions because they can be really ruinous," Tsouderos said.

That includes spending on modeling for the supply chain, especially for health companies that experienced severe shortages of personal protective equipment such as gowns, masks and gloves, Tsouderos said.

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