Health care costs in the United States continue to escalate. Rising approximately 7% each year, the amount of money we spend on health-related services is a scary problem, one compounded by a growing and aging population, as well as government policies that drive demand and allow providers to increase their pricing at will. However, the real reason the cost of U.S. health care services has burgeoned into the problem of its current proportions is not because Americans are growing older or that we have more health problems; it’s mostly due to our increasing reliance on and use of medical technologies, both new and old. Public insistence on medical innovation has pushed the scientific community to continue delivering bigger and better technologies regardless of economic effect. The result is our nation’s present health care cost crisis. But the answer is not to trash all technology or abandon innovation. The answer is to use technology effectively, not indiscriminately, applying it simply because it’s there. Here are three ways technology can be used to save money rather than waste it:
Smart technologies enable the rapid collection and dissemination of information and can be used in health care settings to facilitate better patient care, as well as to lower costs. Rather than use multiple systems to house data separately — patient health records; lab results and imaging; insurance; billing; etc. — the healthcare industry can implement an integrated system, eliminating the need for multiple and/or redundant entries and enabling doctors and administrators alike quicker access to comprehensive information. The benefit is twofold: better diagnosis and treatment and less need for multiple staff to enter and maintain different data depositories. An integrated data system can also streamline claims processing and collection, saving providers and hospitals valuable time and labor and prompting quicker payment of bills.
Much like a study with a quantitative research design can provide business leaders with the objective data they need to make good decisions, wearable devices can provide valuable information for doctors — but in (nearly) real time! Indeed, today’s fitness and wellness trackers provide actionable insights just like surveys and other research methodologies, but instead of having to wait for information to be collected and then evaluated, doctors can do both almost simultaneously, allowing them to monitor and tweak treatment and confirm diagnoses much more effectively and quickly. This not only can eliminate the need for some in-person doctor visits (and their related costs), it removes reliance on the often subjective description of symptoms that patients provide since health data can be delivered remotely to doctors according to specific, established parameters, directly from a wearable health device.
Of course, technology can also be used to automate tasks so that time and money are freed up to be spent in more productive ways. According to one study, doctors only spend 27% of their time with patients; the majority of their workday is spent documenting health records (i.e., reviewing test results, transcribing patient notes, writing out prescriptions, etc.). By automating administrative tasks, doctors have more time to spend giving clinical care. Rather than manually enter test results and patient notes, they can utilize computer programs that automatically sync laboratory information with a patient’s existing record and/or offer assistance with other routine tasks, such as scribe/dictation support, appointment reminders and scheduling. This enables physicians to spend less time on frequently burdensome paperwork, meaning they can spend more time with patients, reducing likely burnout, increasing efficiency and enhancing care.