Turning to Tech to Answer Our Spiking Health Care Costs
News Go past the tipping point of today’s health care ills for a moment, and consider how technology might play a role in its cure.
Telemedicine, for example, can be utilized to ease the pains of health care in America. Transferring medical information via telecommunication technology, like an app via a smartphone, is telemedicine in its simplest form. And while telemedicine may not be able to biopsy a suspicious lump or perform an appendectomy, it does offer round-the-clock care, worldwide.
Technology like this can improve outcomes, change behaviors and increase efficiency in the health care system.
Prepping for higher costs
PwC’s Health Research Institute reports health care costs will grow by 6.5 percent in 2017. With the increase, a solution is needed, and more so now that health insurers Humana, UnitedHealth Group and Aetna, Inc., have ceased or reduced selling individual insurance on state and government-run exchanges.
“...by 2018, the number of telemedicine patients will increase to 7 million.”
All companies cite financial losses as the catalyst for their decisions. Last year, most insurers anticipated turning a profit on the exchanges, but only 11 million people signed up through the online marketplaces. These insurers cite that the current system of risk adjustment — with the government stepping in to balance out losses from sicker patients — is not working. The Affordable Care Act has begun to experience its own tipping point, leaving the future of health care indeterminate.
Turning to tech
Telemedicine is a cost-controller for both employer and employee. Towers Watson, a risk and financial management services company, indicated telemedicine is on the rise with employers, up 68 percent last year. The idea, employers said, is to offer employees low-cost alternatives to emergency room or urgent care visits for non-emergency health matters.
Self-insured companies experience cost savings that go directly to the bottom line. Insurance companies utilize telemedicine as a means to cut costs. Providers want to cut their risk, too; telemedicine can encourage employees to meet with their doctor outside of office visits. Virtual doctor visits through telemedicine will continue to grow in popularity as patients recognize the savings in time and money — and by 2018, the number of telemedicine patients will increase to 7 million. Talking to a physician by phone without leaving a job site means an employee might not lose a day’s pay.
Certainly telemedicine is not the panacea to all health-related or medical economic concerns, but technology, in particular, telemedicine, certainly can be the impetus to its transformation toward genuine health of Americans.