From the April 2015 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
Consumer empowerment, a fixture in such industries as retail products, travel, and banking, is taking shape in health care at last.
But only because consumers finally have to get involved in their own care to head off things like higher insurance premiums and workplace penalties for poor health.
Meanwhile, health care providers are headed into the community to track down consumers and help keep them well. Incentives embedded in Medicare programs to share savings from more efficient and effective care have spawned all manner of inventiveness to promote health and intervene early when a chronically sick person is in danger of getting much sicker.
This intersection of like motivations for consumers and caregivers is creating a remarkable opportunity for entrepreneurs to market digital products that people can stand on, strap on, or wear to yield information valuable to their ongoing health. That same information is valuable to new health management cooperatives such as accountable care organizations.
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Health consumerism has been anticipated ever since the Internet first debuted. But the forecast rise of consumerism failed to gain momentum until several forces came together. High insurance deductibles and other cost sharing increased consumer “skin in the game” and provided motivation to seek out advice on self-care. Meanwhile, health care providers had incentives dangled in front of them that require greater patient engagement in order to collect.
Hospitals and physicians now have to be concerned about Medicare patient satisfaction surveys, publicized on a government web site and figuring into formulas for reimbursing them for their services. Incentives from value-measuring programs of Medicare and private insurers can be boiled down to this: keep people healthy or intervene early in failing health, get a bonus check.
Tracking and monitoring consumers’ health status
With the growing importance of consumer welfare and its tie to reimbursement, health care providers need every advantage to track and monitor consumers’ health status more effectively and efficiently.
Presentations on wearable technology over the years usually started with the lead-in, “Imagine if …” Not anymore. Ralph Lauren is developing a stylish polo shirt that can measure calories burned, heart data, distance traveled and other health-related details. Other products such as the Apple Watch are providing personalized ways to collect data, get feedback and take action. Health care providers are better understanding the people to whom they are accountable for health costs and outcomes.