Potential Changes in Health Care
Potential Changes in Health Care
Health care innovations that were slow to take root have suddenly taken off during this pandemic. Working from home used to be a luxury enjoyed by relatively few workers. Now it is seriously being considered as a workable, cost-saving, long-term solution for many companies. The same goes for what they call “digital health.” Things like virtual office visits were not exactly the norm pre-COVID. That’s all changed, and potentially for the better.
Health care industry experts say the exposure digital health has received in recent months has helped practitioners truly understand and embrace its value. Moving forward, advocates see this as a way to create customized, patient-centric and value-based care plans by maximizing technology and ensuring a patient’s entire medical team is on the same page. Some predict that telehealth will become the norm for initial point-of-care visits for many non-emergency ailments, and in some cases enable providers to decide if a situation calls for urgent or emergency care. Telehealth could even lead to increased provider calls, considering how long people often wait to see a doctor because they don’t feel well enough to leave home.1
In other words, greater willingness to use — and incentivize — telehealth can help people get diagnosed and treated earlier, which can help prevent conditions from worsening before a patient sees a doctor. While digital technology alone may not reduce the cost of providing health care, it is a good first step to improving the health of millions of Americans.2 This can be particularly beneficial for the elderly, who for mobility reasons or cognitive decline may not seek the help they need. As we prepare for retirement, consider how to position your insurance plans to help maximize what technology, telehealth and digital medical equipment have to offer. If you’d like guidance on ways to help pay for future medical care, we can share ideas on what’s available.
Digital health isn’t without its challenges, including privacy and fraud concerns, as well as how to reach patients without access to or knowledge of available technology. And while there are definitely times when a physician needs to conduct a hands-on examination, telehealth is starting to be viewed as today’s answer to yesteryear’s house call.3
The future of digital health may see more widespread use through remote patient monitoring (RPM), such as wearable devices like smartwatches. This type of technology can even be helpful in predicting future virus outbreaks through early-warning detection of individuals with symptoms, as well as contact tracing to prevent further exposure and spread.4
The problem of universal health insurance coverage has been exacerbated by today’s pandemic. A recent study by the Kaufman Family Foundation found that as people lost jobs in the early days of the country’s lockdown, nearly 27 million also lost health insurance due to unemployment. The good news is that about 80% of those people are eligible for Medicare or subsidized insurance via the marketplace. However, even with this opportunity, research shows that not everyone understands that they can apply for coverage while out of a job, meaning there is still an education gap to be addressed. As for the rest of 2020, an Urban Institute report estimates that 48 million nonelderly people reside in a household in which someone will lose a job by the end of the year.5
In an effort to address universal coverage, the U.S. Labor Department recently proposed pooled employer plans to begin in January 2021. However, even if such a move does gain traction in the future, it will apply only to those who are employed and work for an employer that participates in a pooled plan.6
Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.
1 Mike Matteo. BenefitsPRO. Aug. 20, 2020. “Why health care should not ‘return to normal’ post COVID.” https://www.benefitspro.com/2020/08/20/why-health-care-should-not-return-to-normal-post-covid/. Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.
2 AHIP. July, 2020. “Telehealth Growth During COVID-19.” https://www.ahip.org/wp-content/uploads/Telehealth-Infographic-2020.pdf. Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.
3 Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar. Martinsville Bulletin. Aug. 31, 2020. “Fad or future? Telehealth expansion eyed beyond pandemic.” https://martinsvillebulletin.com/news/national/govt-and-politics/fad-or-future-telehealth-expansion-eyed-beyond-pandemic/article_791a579e-bc8c-55df-8a60-8d4e0568e012.html. Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.
4 Lucienne Marie Ide. Medical Electronics. Aug. 31, 2020. “Disrupting Healthcare Through Tech: The Next Wave of Health IT Innovation.” https://www.medicaleconomics.com/view/disrupting-healthcare-through-tech-the-next-wave-of-health-it-innovation. Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.
5 Greg Land. BenefitsPRO. Sept. 2, 2020. “COVID-19 and the uninsured rate: What’s the deal?” https://www.benefitspro.com/2020/09/02/covid-19-and-the-uninsured-rate-whats-the-deal/. Accessed Sept. 16, 2020.
6 Melanie Waddell. BenefitsPRO. Aug. 21, 2020. “DOL issues proposed rule on pooled employer plans.” https://www.benefitspro.com/2020/08/21/dol-issues-proposed-rule-on-pooled-employer-plans-412-102825/. Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.
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