The continuous growth of telehealth and digital health companies is changing the healthcare industry’s landscape in fundamental ways. New technologies are beginning to make their way into hospitals and doctor’s offices across the country. But what factors are driving innovations in digital health? What’s behind the rapid rise of telehealth companies and digital health solutions across the industry? How can these changes benefit the healthcare industry at large? Here are just a few of the factors that influence digital health innovations and drive new trends in the telehealth space, and how they will change healthcare for the better.
Lowering Healthcare Costs
The cost of healthcare in the United States is a huge factor driving innovation in digital health and telehealth. With the current healthcare laws in place, national spending in this area is expected to grow by around 5.5% each year between 2018 and 2027, reaching nearly $6 trillion dollars by then.
With costs growing at such high rates, it’s no surprise that one of the driving factors of the digital health industry is to lower costs and provide more value-based healthcare options to consumers. Telehealth and digital health tools can help reduce the cost of care by providing patients with monitoring tools, consultations via video with their physicians, and reminders for appointments. These tools can help reduce costs associated with follow-up visits and missed appointments and can help patients and doctors with earlier detection.
What Is Value-Based Healthcare?
Value-based healthcare is quite different from the traditional payment model in healthcare, usually referred to as “fee-for-service.” In a fee-for-service model, providers are paid for services rendered, regardless of whether or not they are medically necessary or effective. The result of this model can sometimes be that doctors will over-schedule procedures just for the payment—reimbursement from insurance companies.
In value-based healthcare, the outcome of patient services is measured against the cost of those services. Practically, this might play out as a limited number of therapy sessions each year that would be reimbursed. If the provider cannot report measurable improvements, then they would begin to stop receiving reimbursement. Under this model, patients can end up receiving better quality of care and pay lower out-of-pocket costs for services. However, the implementation of these systems saddles doctors and other providers with a massive regulatory burden caused by the extra reporting required by VBC (value-based healthcare) programs.
Digital health tools can significantly help reduce these burdens on physicians. AI-based voice tools help cut down on the time doctors spend taking notes and filling out forms; those using voice-based assistant tool Suki cut their time taking notes by nearly 70%, for example. Care communication IT solutions help providers transfer patient information more effectively, cutting down on the nearly 80% of medical errors that are caused by poor communication during a care transition.
With improvements in healthcare, people are living longer and longer. But that longer life expectancy places a hefty care burden on providers. Digital health and telehealth solutions can leverage big data and AI to help improve outcomes for older patients. Telehealth provides quick and easy access to follow-up care and helps monitor a patient’s overall health, helping with early detection. If older adults can learn to take advantage of the available digital health tools, the burden on the healthcare industry at large will decrease just as patient quality of care increases.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were one of the earliest systems to adopt a value-based healthcare model. These value-based healthcare systems, as mentioned above, are helped significantly by digital health tools. Many insurance providers are also beginning to partner with digital health tools; AI-based assistants are entering the scene in partnerships with companies like Aetna, Cigna, and United Health.
Using digital health tools allows these companies to build customer loyalty while navigating the complex field of value-based healthcare. The eventual goal is to lower healthcare costs and provide customers with a better quality of care by getting them to engage more actively with their own health. Monitoring tools for heart conditions, reminders to take medications and monitoring of things like blood sugar levels with digital health tools could help older Americans do just that.
Focus on the Consumer
As value-based healthcare has entered the scene, it has become more and more clear what the priority of the healthcare industry should be: the patient. Now more than ever, patients are openly frustrated by the difficulties with the care that have been common for years. This renewed focus on the patient has helped push the continued development of digital health technologies that help patients engage with and monitor their own health outside of the doctor’s office. Providers will need to meet patient demand for better care by making it easier to pay bills, schedule appointments, and find information that is relevant to them.