Just as the web, mobile phones, tablets, video-chatting, etc. have transformed the way we shop, read and communicate, the health care industry is leveraging digital technology to better serve patients. Following are some of the ways in which the healthcare sector is using the latest technology:
Visiting a doctor for routine medical care for many individuals isn’t convenient. Yet putting off a visit can end up causing even more problems, particularly for those suffering from chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, which are mainly treated at home with drugs and lifestyle modifications. Failing to manage these diseases inevitably can lead to emergency room visits, heart attacks, strokes, enormous costs, and huge burdens on nursing homes and other social-care institutions. Now patients can choose to “visit” doctors virtually, including by videoconferencing or via a mobile app on an Android or iPhone. Telemedicine, as it is known, is the remote delivery of healthcare services, such as health assessments or consultations, over the telecommunications infrastructure. It allows healthcare providers to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients without the need for an in-person visit. In fact, more than 15 million Americans received some kind of medical care remotely in 2015, according to the American Telemedicine Association.
Smart phones are now being used to help manage Type 2 diabetes, which is most often the result of being overweight and inactive. Mobile tools are available to help patients track their food, exercise and weight against goals set to reverse their Type 2 diabetes. The key is that technology makes these interventions convenient, affordable and scalable.
Prescription drug adherence and management is another area set to benefit from technology. Studies show that fewer than 50% of patients adhere to their medication regiment, adding an estimated $290 billion annually to the American health system. One company has developed sensor technology so small it can be swallowed and combined with drugs in pill form. When the pill dissolves in the stomach, the sensor is activated and transmits data to a wearable patch on the outside of the body and on to a smartphone app. This enables patients and their clinicians to see how well they are adhering to their prescription.
Smart assistive technology is being used for people with disabilities or long-term conditions to help them perform tasks or activities. For example, there is tremor spoon already on the market for use by people with Parkinson’s disease. By incorporating sensors and deploying its data analytic expertise, the aim is to provide people or health professionals with information about how someone’s tremor characteristics and severity change over time – and to understand more about the disease across a population. Smart inhalers work on a similar idea, passively detecting each use, location and the surrounding air quality, allowing insights into what triggers asthma attacks.
With new technologies like these come opportunities for the healthcare system: improving the accuracy and usefulness of gathered patient information, changing how and where care is delivered; and offering new ways to prevent, predict, detect and treat illness. Of course, there are challenges as well, including privacy issues, regulatory compliance, and payment for such services, among others.
As a provider of end-to-end insurance solutions for the healthcare industry, RPS is committed to keeping our agents and brokers up to date with how the landscape of this sector is changing. We are also committed to helping you respond to their insurance and risk management needs as technology brings new opportunities and challenges.