The arrival of 2017 brings with it forecasts on what to expect as far as technology trends affecting health care and health insurance. While experts don’t all agree on what’s ahead, here’s a look at three trends you are likely to see this year.
Accessing health care remotely through the use of telecommunications – commonly referred to as telehealth – is on the rise and it’s expected to grow exponentially in 2017. Whether services are provided in real-time via video teleconferencing or on a cell phone, more and more insurers are offering telehealth (or telemedicine) to their members. Only five years ago, global health care providers reported about 308,000 patients using telehealth services to monitor congestive heart failure, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. This year, worldwide numbers are expected to approach two million, driven by federal policy, provider demand, payer demand, and patient desire. The National Business Group on Health expects more than three-quarters of employers to offer telehealth to employees this year – up from 48 percent in 2014-2015.
While 2014 was declared the year of the wearable by many tech publications, growth has only escalated since then. Forbes reported in 2016 that Fitbits were attracting enthusiasts of all ages – young, healthy individuals as well as aging baby boomers and other seniors. According to reports, there are now more than 70 million people in the U.S. using some sort of tracking device: sleep sensors, “smart” clothing and watches, activity monitors, fitness and heart rate monitors, etc. That’s up more than two-thirds from just under 40 million in 2015. Sales could surpass 126 million worldwide by 2019, according to International Data Corporation, a global provider of market intelligence and advisory services for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets.
INCREASED INFORMATION EXCHANGE
As the health care industry continues its move toward value-based care and a focus on patients (as mandated by the Affordable Care Act and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services), insurers and health care providers will be working more closely. That collaboration increases their ability to share information, affecting all of the tools used in connection with caring for patients including electronic health records and digital health tools – whether in a physician’s office, hospital, or at a care coordinator’s location. It was announced only this month that two California health information exchanges with ties to some of the state’s top health insurance plans are merging. The consolidation, which is pending approval by the California attorney general’s office, will bring together the California Integrated Data Exchange, which was formed by Blue Shield of California and Anthem Blue Cross in 2014, and the Inland Empire Health Information Exchange established in 2009. If approved, the combined information exchange will consolidate data from 43 hospitals and medical centers and 30 medical groups or independent practice associations with access to the records of more than 16 million patients.
These are just three of the technology-related trends that will impact patients, providers, employers, and health insurance brokers in 2017. As other trends develop during the year, you can count on us to share news about them.