The Thanksgiving holiday is a time for families and friends to gather to celebrate, enjoy each other’s company, and take a much-needed break from the pressures of daily routines. But, it also represents a time to be thankful for the things in our lives that allow us to spend time with friend and relatives – including our health.
Health is an issue that impacts everyone, whether they are trying to maintain good health and wellness or managing conditions that arise. The problem is there are many factors that are keeping traditional healthcare models and technologies from always being as effective and efficient as patients and providers would like. Geography, socioeconomic variables, a growing elderly population, a physician shortage, and rising healthcare costs are only some of the factors creating a gap between healthcare needs and services.
But, modern healthcare technology is poised to set new standards in healthcare delivery. Connected health technologies, including remote patient monitoring, telehealth and more, can help make it easier to receive or deliver care, and may reduce some of the inefficiencies that are prevalent in the healthcare system today.
As we think about the things in our lives for which we should be thankful, here are just a few of the evolving healthcare trends that can be included in that list that are helping foster a new era of healthcare.
Population Health Initiatives
Driven by a vast amount of data that can be collected by RPM devices, telehealth systems, patient portals, EHRs, and other external sources, population health programs seek to identify and understand health trends across various population groups. That information can be used to identify the best treatments for individual conditions, but can also help proactively manage health trends and conditions among groups to react earlier to potential conditions. The goal is to enable faster and more effective treatment for existing conditions and to reduce the number of cases that require treatment by identifying at-risk patients early to allow for proactive management. Artificial intelligence will play a key role in the analytics required to drive successful programs.
Traditional healthcare models are based on a fee-for-service model, which are inherently susceptible to treatment bias towards programs that benefit physicians and providers. Shifting to a value-based model emphasizes positive outcomes through accurate diagnoses and the most appropriate treatment plans. By linking remuneration to results rather than procedures, physicians should be motivated to produce the best possible outcomes. The secondary impact is that, by focusing on better, more efficient outcomes, physicians may have an opportunity to treat more patients without increasing their workload.
Communications and collaboration features of connected health solutions offer opportunities for coordination between healthcare professionals. Through telehealth and store-and-forward technologies, physicians can consult colleagues and specialists and can even include them in patient interactions. Increased access to a range of healthcare professionals – including mental health specialists – can help physicians provide optimal care for patients, including patients suffering from multiple conditions or those who require specialists.
New Patient Engagement Tools
Connected health platforms can provide patients and caregivers the ability to become more aware of their healthcare needs and to adhere to treatment programs. Access to new engagement tools can give patients greater access to their own health data and increase regular engagement with their providers to create greater awareness of their health and wellness – whether that’s monitoring conditions, keeping up with prescribed medication, or simply being able to easily ask questions without scheduling an office visit.
Better Chronic Disease Management
The number of chronically ill patients is increasing, adding to the burden on the healthcare system. Remote patient monitoring and telehealth solutions can make it possible to treat patients without requiring office visits. With digital monitoring tools, automation, and virtual visits, physicians have an opportunity to monitor and manage conditions more efficiently. Patient-facing digital tools also allow p-patients and caregivers to be more active in managing conditions, relieving some of the burden on physicians and allowing patients to receive at-home treatment.
Physician Burnout and Stress Reduction
Physician burnout is a growing issue, with inefficiencies in the system at least partially to blame. Most physicians spend more time than they want on time-intensive manual tasks, including entering information into patient records. Automated processes enabled by connected health solutions and the availability of multiple means of doctor-patient communication can reduce the manual effort and time during in-office visits, allowing physicians to spend more time seeing patients, either virtually or in-person.
Healthcare Waste Reduction
About a quarter of annual healthcare spend due is waste, and some of that waste is due to to inefficiencies in the system. Connected health technologies deliver many benefits that may help reduce wasted time, effort, and money, including better access to care, coordinated care efforts, increased patient communication and engagement, preventative care, automation, and data analytics.
Government Support for Telehealth
Connected health technologies are not new, but many providers have been reluctant to adopt them due to regulatory uncertainty and unfavorable cost models. Federal and state governments have been increasingly active in supporting regulatory change to drive connected health adoption. New CPT codes have been created to make reimbursement easier, and amendments to federal laws have been proposed to make it easier for physicians to promote connected health.
These healthcare trends that leverage connected health technologies have the potential to not only create a more efficient healthcare system, but may help patients receive higher quality care and potentially reduce costs in the process. The result is a win-win for patients and providers alike, and better healthcare for patients and the ability to deliver it are certainly something to be thankful for.
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