Imagine a time…
…when consumers can use instant comparison shopping for health insurance, medical procedures and medications – much like they can now with internet price comparisons and consumer reviews for hotels, travel fares and home electronics.
…when patients can quickly compare scientifically proven results for different types of treatments and medications.
…when doctors can make “house calls” using video technology and home medical devices.
This is the future of healthcare – a future made possible by the “other” revolution in healthcare.
While mandatory health insurance and the specter of ObamaCare have gotten the lion’s share of political and media attention, passing almost unnoticed are changes which will substantially affect how healthcare is delivered and how costs are determined.
Over the last 20-30 years, the evolution of healthcare has been a strange study in contrasts. On the plus side, medical breakthroughs have occurred so quickly it is hard to keep track of them. Improvements in treating heart disease and cancer, minimally-invasive surgery and improved diagnostics (MRI and other scans), to name just a few. Thanks to healthier lifestyles and improved patient care, more than 50% of babies born today in America will live to 100.
Even though there have been great medical advances over the last few decades, healthcare administration has remained mired in archaic and inefficient practices, including a staggering lack of computerization. The cost of healthcare has spiraled out of control. Americans now spend more than twice as much per capita than any other country, yet many are unable to obtain proper healthcare.
Though much of ObamaCare has been caught up in political maneuvering, one aspect of healthcare reform – computerization – has mostly escaped controversy. Many Americans are surprised that in this day and age healthcare in America is largely not computerized. The most commonly cited reasons are cost, complexity, lack of standardization, and uncertainty about the path forward. The inefficiencies and costs tied to lack of computerization have grown so much that America’s largest healthcare consumer – the U.S. Government by dint of the fact it reimburses hundreds of billions of dollars annually to providers for Medicare and other government-subsidized programs – has decided to stop waiting.
The HITECH Act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, gave impetus and direction for computerization of healthcare across America by earmarking $20 billion to reimburse providers (hospitals, clinics, doctors, etc.) for the one-time cost of computerizing. Additional incentive was given by setting penalties for providers who did not computerize by 2015. Much of the computerization has already taken place, with the rest scheduled for completion by 2015 so that providers can avoid being penalized.
The pace and scope of this undertaking is unprecedented in the history of business. Computerization is not just a matter of installing software. Workflows for patient visits, from scheduling and check-ins, to administering tests and procedures – all must be changed to utilize medical software. And implementing new systems is just the first stage of the revolution.
Once the systems have been in place for a few years, and data banks have had time to grow, clearinghouses will be created for comparisons of treatments and cures, insurance shopping, and other related industries. Medical research and development will explode with the vast amounts of data becoming available.
Government has provided the impetus; the healthcare industry has responded. In this age of internet and mobile devices, it will be consumers who ultimately drive the market.
Interesting times indeed.