Spanish health authority cuts costs with Xbox consultations

Accenture has been working with the health authorities in Spain’s Basque Country to reduce healthcare costs through technology

Accenture has been working with the health authorities in Spain’s Basque Country to reduce the costs associated with caring for people with chronic diseases through technology developed for Microsoft’s Xbox games console.

The IT services giant is supporting the implementation of a remote monitoring and interactive system called Teki which works with Xbox.

Patients with chronic diseases such as arthritis, asthma, and diabetes account for 80% of patient interactions with the public healthcare system, which takes up 77% of the total healthcare budget.

The Teki telehealth system aims to reduce costs by enabling consultations to be carried out with a patient at their own home when the system, via the Xbox, is connected to the patient's TV. 

Teki also enables medical staff to remotely monitor the patient's health, give dietary advice and prescribe medicine. 

“For instance, if a regime of exercise is prescribed to a patient, Teki can help ensure it is done properly,” said Aimie Chapple, managing director for Accenture’s health business in the UK.

Improving healthcare, reducing costs

The Basque Country health authorities have reported fewer hospital visits for patients suffering from chronic conditions and a reduction in expensive, unplanned hospital stays.

More on IT in healthcare

A total of 18% of interactions between patients and healthcare professionals now take place over the telephone with the multi-channel centre, which Teki is part of, fielding more than 100,000 calls for medical advice in the past 12 months. 

“Patients with more than one chronic condition are six times more expensive to care for than those with one. On the current trend, healthcare expenditure in the Basque Country is set to double by 2020,” said Chapple.

An Accenture survey revealed that 40% of patients said they were strongly satisfied with appointments they arranged over the web, compared with 5% who were not. 

Users have downloaded almost 4,000 iPhone and Android apps, enabling them to arrange appointments, receive medical advice and access their health files via their smartphones. 

Benefits could be replicated in the NHS

“The Basque initiative, which could be replicated in England, would not only save health authorities billions of pounds a year, but would enable a better quality of care for older patients and more effective monitoring of their health," said Chapple. "In the process, it would free up more resources in the acute sector, which is likely to see growing demand for its services as the population gets older.

“Crucial infrastructure such as single patient records, which can be shared between medical professionals regardless of their location, is already in place and can support the type of remote monitoring and interaction with patients practiced in the Basque Country," she added.

“For the English healthcare system it's a case of focusing on the most expensive patients afflicted with multiple chronic conditions in way that is more cost-effective while ensuring the highest levels of care. 

"Following the example of the Basque Country would enable the establishment of systems to predict which patients will drive future costs and allow health authorities to co-ordinate home-based care and manage individual cases and not just their illnesses.”

What could transform the health system and integrate primary and secondary, according to Ruth Ormsby, partner at Accenture

  1. Developing integrated systems that blend electronic medical records with new methods of communication, remote care and process management to build seamless systems and workflows.

    There are, for example, new clinician and patient interfaces under development that will make healthcare data and analytical tools easier to access, navigate and put to good use, and natural language processing and voice recognition technologies are being developed that can instantly digitise healthcare consultations and integrate them into electronic medical record (EMR) systems.
  2. Redirecting healthcare interventions away from expensive hospital settings and into people's homes through telemedicine, remote care and mobile health.

    A whole new range of applications – from handheld devices to facilitate remote diagnosis, to touchscreen technologies and "smart" devices (such as "intelligent shirts" that use electrodes and sensors to monitor patients' vital signs, activity sensors, and webcams) – will enable remote monitoring and communication.
  3. Transforming the role of patients in managing their own wellbeing through shared decision-making, condition monitoring and chronic disease management. 

    New, independently developed, mobile healthcare apps are giving people the tools to educate themselves on how to eat well and live well, while personal health records (PHRs) and patient portals help them to manage their own care needs.
  4. Exploring the potential of genomics to personalise treatment and wellness plans, present clinicians with a powerful range of analytical and diagnostic tools, and enable managers to coordinate care, target resources and improve public health outcomes.

    Among other benefits, this will help identify early – even preventative – interventions where patients have a genetic predisposition to certain medical conditions.

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