I don’t have a crystal ball, but if I did and could see what health insurance may look like in five, 10 or even 20 years, I would see you, the patient, in the center of the process.
You aren’t sitting on the sidelines, uncertain about what questions to ask because you don’t have enough information — or you don’t understand the complex information you’ve been given. In the future, you’ve been given the tools you need to make confident, informed decisions about the health care you receive.
The good news is that the future is starting to happen now.
The health care industry has already undergone significant changes — and will continue to do so.
The biggest difference in recent years is the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, along with Medicaid expansion in several states. Those changes have resulted in increased regulations on insurance carriers, employers, and others, aimed at improving access to health care for all Americans.
Here’s what to expect as we move forward.
More access to vital information
If you’ve had an office visit lately you’ve seen both the nurse and doctor entering information about you into a computer. Having one place that they can go to find out everything they need to know about your medical care helps to reduce treatment mistakes and medication errors. If you end up in an emergency room, that same electronic record that holds your information can be a lifesaver. They will know instantly what you might be allergic to and what’s in your medical history.
Better all-around care
You’re going to see more doctors moving to treating a person as a whole, not just by symptom. This value-based approach rewards doctors for keeping a patient healthy by setting up regular exams, educating patients about their health, how to take their medicine and following up to see if they do. It sounds like an old concept but having one doctor care for you most of your life can be better for your health in the long run.
Technology in the driver’s seat
We’re also on the verge of changes that are being driven by technology. Similar to the changes in other industries, where technology advancements have shaped your behavior (cell phones/computers/television), I think advancements in technology will drive how health insurers either catch up to or help lead the revolution.
Do you have a smartphone? You can refill your medication from a pharmacy app now. Have a sinus infection? No need to wait to see a doctor. You can combine grocery shopping with a stop at a quick care clinic.
What if you have a sick child and can’t leave work for hours to take them to a doctor? Access telehealth services from the comfort of your home or office.
Maybe you’ve been told you need knee surgery; now you can get a “report card” on your smartphone that shows the best places to have the procedure performed.
Technology is improving medicine and closing the knowledge gap for consumers. That empowers doctors and consumers to make the best decisions. It is no longer about treating a symptom, but the entire person, both physically and mentally. This is what will really drive the health care revolution far more than any regulation or guideline.
Looks like I don’t need that crystal ball after all.
By Tom Gilsdorf, director, BCBSNE product development