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It is hard to believe that just ten years ago, our world revolved around paper—especially in the world of health care. Thanks to rapid technological advances, our world has vastly changed.
Digitalization in health care has not only created convenience for all providers, patients and insurers, but has allowed for our society to gather information more quickly, and most importantly, treat patients with greater precision. Somewhere during this transition, health care companies have evolved from more than just the custodians of patient data and records, but into organizations trusted to manage personal data and money, while electronic health care information exchanges handle the processing and safekeeping of these transactions on the backend. Leaving the introduction of Blockchain aside as it pertains to storing and sharing data, how will digitalization impact patients and providers in upcoming years?
"There are so many possibilities when it comes to health care technology—better treatment, greater efficiency and convenience, cost savings"
Here are a few areas where we will soon see exponential growth in health care related technologies.
• We will become even more connected. The Internet of Things (IoT) and adoption of smart devices have allowed for us as consumers to become more attuned to our body, our behaviors, and to closely monitor these items in order to have better preventative health. It has also opened the door for our providers to evaluate our situation and provide a better, more accurate, and timely prognosis. This level of data and analysis will open the door even more for consumerism, so patients can make informed choices in regards to care and wellness, whether it is the benefits they sign-up for during open enrollment, the items they purchase, or the location and timing of for shopping for those items. As a society, we are getting smarter. For example, blood glucose monitors can update providers in between patient office visits.
• There will be even a greater expansion of health and wellness programs. This intensified level of intelligence and knowledge will open the door for health and wellness programs tailored to the consumer. Today, we know from viewing our Apple Watch or FitBit that we only walk 7,500 steps a day. Based on that knowledge, we as consumers may be more likely to sign up for the gym and take advantage of the wellness credit offered by our employers. Tomorrow, fitness facilities may partner with employers to offer incentives to drive traffic to their location under the wellness program umbrella. This is a simple example, but the same can hold true for more serious devices like insulin pumps and pacemakers—becoming aware can drive the behavior.
• Treatment methodologies will progress. With the rapid technological advancements, new methods of treatment will be introduced to address patient care, maybe it is virtual reality, artificial intelligence, or something more, but the acceptance of those treatments as eligible will have to be addressed as not only may they provide non-evasive care for patients but could potentially drive down the cost of health care. But how do you pay for this care, all without having to go out of pocket and then request reimbursement? This is where the Virtual Wallet comes into play.
• The Virtual Wallet will evolve. Digital payments have had a profound impact on our society; the ability to send electronic health care payments via secure portals has eliminated the need for physical checks or inconvenient phone calls. Imagine the convenience created by having multiple payment accounts on one card, including your personal account and a tax-advantaged health care savings account, to pay a provider. This solution could be one physical card that is carried or a virtual card sitting on a device, and the payment network will utilize data interchanges to determine which purse to select based on the carrier feeds. Once more, pharmacies and other suppliers can integrate reward systems with this virtual wallet to being integrating coupons and discounts into the account automatically for another layer of savings and convenience. Consumers will benefit from a minimized need to check account balances in advance or worry if an expense is eligible. Additionally, since carrying around several cards is a burden, minimalizing this consumer hassle via the virtual wallet will create a far positive user experience and minimize pay and chase (follow-ups for health care documentation to substantiate the expense post-sale).
There are so many possibilities when it comes to health care technology—better treatment, greater efficiency and convenience, cost savings. In order to arrive at this junction, we need to continue to innovate, continue to streamline, and continue to put patients first in all that we do.