Those who have it, love it. Those who don’t have it, often need it most.
A few years ago, Mark Nathan, the CEO and founder of Zipari, the company for health insurance and technology, stated: “Once a payer proves it can make valuable and trusted recommendations, the consumer can make the decisions that will not only lead to better health outcomes but also to reduced cost of care.” In this quote, Nathan refers to the payers as being organizations or individuals who provide the necessary reimbursement for healthcare costs, both medical- and pharmaceutical-related. These payers can include individual patients, state- and nation-level healthcare organizations, and private insurance companies.
Similarly, patients who require healthcare, but lack internet or financial access, cannot afford to miss a day of work, a long drive to town, or an overnight hotel. According to the National Health Interview Survey, nearly 10% of adults in the U.S. could not obtain medical care due to its cost. Numbers make it easy for outsiders to point at the costs associated with healthcare, but there is more to it than just the price tag. At what cost does reducing the price of healthcare come, if we forget to reduce the time and effort that healthcare workers sacrifice for their daily work? In the grand scheme of things, the majority of healthcare workers already have little to no say in how accurately their services are being reimbursed.
It is also important to address patients who find it very difficult to leave their place(s) of comfort, i.e. home or work. Although patients with iatrophobia, fear of doctors, are relatively common, it might even be more common for people who have internalized fat-shaming stigmas, and find it incredibly difficult to go to the doctor, thereby forgoing valuable healthcare services for comorbidities including heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus type II, and cancer. Over 10% of persons do not have a usual place to go for medical care. What percent of that is due to social anxiety? On top of the encouragement of poor eating habits and mental health issues, fat- and body-shaming has led to this fairly unspoken public health crisis. After all, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. was nearly 50% by 2018.
Here is where technology steps in.
According to Managed Healthcare Executive, telehealth, mobile health (“mHealth”), wearable devices, retail clinics, home-based care, and micro-hospitals are just some examples of where healthcare is currently heading. Although the COVID-19 pandemic drastically helped push the trend toward a home-based care system and the pandemic frenzy is beginning to reside, it seems like Telehealth, et al., will become the new norm. Telehealth makes doctor’s visits seem like a breeze, on both the doctor’s and the patient’s side. Home healthcare is even projected to grow by 54%. The use of health apps, smartwatches, Fitbits, heart, and glucose monitoring devices, are all contributing to the ability of doctors to provide patients with more accessible healthcare.
Not all specialties allow for a simple switch to Telehealth. Imagine hopping on a Zoom meeting for an emergency appendectomy, gallstone removal, or broken arm. Until a doctor can fix a broken arm or a broken heart using a computer, reliable internet connection, a sterile patient setting, and "delete" all the uncontrollable variables, Telehealth won’t be an option for all. However, many patients with chronic, yet controlled, illnesses do not need to drive miles away from home, take leave from work, or pay for a hotel if they have a 10-minute appointment scheduled with their primary care physician. In these cases, Telehealth and/or digital monitoring of vitals work just fine.
There is great appeal for independence through quick and easy healthcare, as it is ultimately based on the prototype of Western thinking, modern values, and the American dream. There are challenges that accessible healthcare has faced in the past, is currently facing, and will face in the future. As the U.S. is experiencing significant shifts in demographics (people older than 65 years already outnumber those that are under 5 years), and the growing population is becoming Medicare-eligible, the American healthcare system needs to adapt accordingly. Currently, experts believe that home-based healthcare reimbursements from Medicare will rise through partnerships with home healthcare companies and other service providers.
However, this is only the beginning.
This common phrase applies: “It takes a village to raise a child.” We need to learn from each other and advocate for the success and funding of our fellow healthcare workers, researchers, and pharmacists, as we advance into a new age of healthcare.
Thanks for stopping by! :)
~Ryen Belle Harran~