- How our Healthcare Measures Up
- Ability to Understand Large Datasets
- Sophisticated Incentives
- Reframing Insurance
- Meaningful Innovation
- Your HIPAA-Compliant Partner
To put it mildly, the American healthcare system is not in good shape. Analysis published last year by the Commonwealth Fund showed the US coming up dead last for the 11th straight year when pitted against the quality of healthcare in 10 other developed countries. The nations ranked as follows:
- United Kingdom
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- United States.
Even though the quality of care in the United States isn’t keeping up with the rest of the world, each of us spends more on average than people in most of those other countries do. For comparison purposes with the above, here is the top 11 countries in terms of the amount per capita spent on healthcare:
- Norway – $9715
- Switzerland – $9276
- United States – $9146
- Luxembourg – $7981
- Monaco – $6993
- Denmark – $6270
- The Netherlands – $6145
- Australia – $6110
- Canada – $5718
- Sweden – $5680
- Austria – $5427
Despite all the spending, many Americans are unhealthy – with the CDC estimating that the majority of us suffer from chronic illnesses.
What can technology do to change these trends and bolster the quality of US healthcare? Or should we all move to Sweden?
Strength #1 – Ability to Understand Large Datasets
Many providers and other healthcare companies are aggressively strategizing in the area of big data. “[I]t’s key to every stage of the system — from research and development, to disease monitoring and treatment, to patient care,” says health writer Lyndsey Gilpin. “With IoT technology, sensors, and real-time analytics, doctors and researchers can more accurately understand their patients and better customize care.”
Strength #2 – Access
Access has long been considered a weakness of the American healthcare system. Telemedicine such as videoconferencing will allow people to get access to doctors regardless where they are, getting the professional expertise they need for ongoing treatment with no need to drive to the practice.
Strength #3 – Education
The way that medical school is organized in the United States is that doctors are trained for four years, two of that scholarly and the other two in a residency. The academic model has not kept pace with the technological innovations of the healthcare industry.
Now in 2015, though, education is in the process of rapid transition. “[T]he American Medical Association’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education is funding $1 million to each of 11 different schools to help fund new programs,” explains Gilpin. “Some schools are offering classes that use tech to look at disparities in access to care or how tech can help physicians give patient care.”
Strength #4 – Popularity
A 2013 study from Deloitte found that 73% of doctors think IT will bolster care quality. As physicians and hospitals are investing in more IT services, more people are being hired in the health IT field, with the job market expected to rise 20% by 2018. With more providers using EHRs, doctors are also better able to share information. In fact, one study found that primary-specialist consultations are the top use of videoconferencing telemedicine apps.
Strength #5 – Sophisticated Incentives
An extraordinary proportion of Americans are obese: 1 out of every 3 adults, and 1 out of every 5 kids. As those numbers have skyrocketed, employers now spend $6 billion annually on workplace wellness initiatives.
Although the obesity figures are disturbing, technology could create the perfect storm to combat it. Growth of the corporate wellness industry “comes at a time when fitness trackers and health apps are extremely popular with consumers,” says Gilpin. “It’s creating an ecosystem that can hopefully lower obesity rates, preventable diseases, and potentially the costs of healthcare.”
Strength #6 – Reframing Insurance
While Obamacare is certainly not universally loved, it has had one effect that seems to be objectively positive: the uninsured population dove from 22% to 15% in 2014.
Many people (some of whom don’t sell insurance for a living) are still concerned about that uninsured population. One example is the creators of an app called Oscar. The developers created an environment in which consumers can input their symptoms, discuss them with a physician, and track their medical data over time. Insurance quoting is integrated with the system.
Strength #7 – Meaningful Innovation
Many of the general technologies that are being designed are games and other entertaining gimmicks. In the area of healthcare, though, innovators have the power to actually save lives.
Two organizations are allowing IT specialists to perform work for the greater good. Significant Labs creates an environment in which people with strong technological skills can use them to provide assistance to the poor, while Not Impossible Labs create applications with open-source software to solve real-world problems.
“The ideas behind these organizations are key to creating better solutions that can really impact people,” says Gilpin.
Your HIPAA-Compliant Partner
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By Kent Roberts