How will technology change the healthcare game?
Almost every aspect of our lives has been changed – and usually simplified – by technology: from communicating to banking to shopping. But, somehow, healthcare has been left behind because we all believed that it was too complicated to fix, or that the solutions were impossible due to regulations. That’s just not true. Now, more than ever, we can take some of the same approaches that have simplified so many other consumer industries and bring them to healthcare.
I believe technology has the potential to not just improve the consumer experience of healthcare, but also to remove unneeded cost from the system. The first step of this is aligning the incentives right, and the second step is enabling better outcomes.
What does technology have to do with aligning the incentives in healthcare? Everything. Today, 87% of private sector health insurance is paid for by employers. It’s an ‘employer-sponsored’ healthcare system, but one in which the employers have had very little choice and very little true control. Technology is allowing us to move to an ‘employer-driven’ healthcare system. Employers can now – with new technology – put in place best in class solutions, measure what works, and even create novel designs around medical networks and communications. They can literally run their mini-health insurance companies – at the employer level – as well as a big insurance company could. Technology enables employers to be more than a paying passenger of healthcare, but to be the driver that has the incentives to control costs and improve the experience.
Technology can also enable better outcomes. I see care guidance as one of the most immediate areas that technology can have a major, positive impact on in healthcare. Today, the average consumer of healthcare is setup to fail. Most doctors can’t even understand their health benefits, let alone the average consumer—how can we expect people to make the right decisions? At Collective Health, we’ve see the true power of care guidance manifest itself in the form of technology paired with the human touch. The combination of machine learning-based data analysis, care advocacy, and better user experiences—via modern mobile and web tools—can help guide patients to the right care, at the right time.
What encourages me is that this smarter use of healthcare not only gets people the treatments they need, it appears to reduce costs. We recently ran an analysis of medical trend—the YoY change in healthcare costs per employee—for our returning clients and found that the combination of our technology tools and concierge service drove a -.3% medical trend, effectively reducing year-over-year healthcare costs for our clients. And, the more members interacted with Collective Health, the lower the trend—people who engaged with us realized a -.8% trend.
Written: , co-founder and chief health officer, Collective Health