More than 90 percent of people agree that healthcare costs in the United States are too high. It’s no wonder -- throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the cost of treatment for COVID-19 has actually risen by $15,000, from $30,000 to $45,000.
A lack of price transparency, coupled with unchecked price increases, has left countless patients wondering whether they’ll be able to afford their medical bills. Almost half of us actually avoid medical treatment because we are concerned about paying the bills. But avoiding or delaying necessary care only exacerbates conditions that require treatment, ultimately costing patients -- and potentially taxpayers -- even more down the line.
Fortunately, the pandemic has also caused consumers and healthcare providers to embrace technology in new ways that will help bring these costs down.
For the duration of the pandemic, federal and state governments have worked together to expand access to telemedicine, which will likely be adopted permanently in some form. Although we've long had telemedicine around as an option, it was not as widely adopted by healthcare providers or consumers until recently. And it’s not just for younger generations. Over 60 percent of people 64 or older reported using telemedicine during the pandemic -- and over 40 percent intend to continue using it after the coronavirus panic is over.
We’ve learned that everything from the common cold and diabetic check-ins to mental health visits could be handled remotely with telemedicine. Now that more people are using this system, there’s even more demand for healthcare technology that could potentially drive down prices, specifically through remote monitoring.
Wearables are the next watershed opportunity that could reduce medical costs through early detection and on-going monitoring. Basic wearables already track heart rate, blood oxygenation, activity levels and sleep patterns. The next generation of wearables includes EKG’s, hydration levels, blood pressure, and more. Wearables are quickly advancing, so much so that the US Navy is issuing wearables to its sailors to track the effectiveness of social distancing to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Imagine the benefits doctors will receive from the data wearables provide. They’ll be able to know whether patients are adhering to diet or exercise plans, or whether patients are experiencing unusual heart rate levels, all without having to take someone’s word for it.
Over 40 percent of consumers already use a wearable device, and more than 60 percent are willing to wear a device that would help bring their insurance premiums down, similar to auto insurance discounts. We can expect that new devices able to track COVID-19 symptoms, or help vulnerable seniors with contact tracing, will quickly gain popularity.
Beyond wrist bracelets or arm bands, wearables are taking us into the realm of science fiction movies, including virtual reality goggles and smart tattoos that interact with a digital experience, and yet feel like reality. As this technology becomes more mainstream, adoption in the healthcare space is inevitable -- especially as more than half of those 64 and older say they’re already embracing technology more during COVID-19.
Imagine a doctor’s office visit in a virtual reality setting: You can interact with a doctor in a face-to-face environment that looks and feels real, but actually takes place from the comfort and safety of your home, saving both time and money.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to economic shut downs and immeasurable personal loss across our country. While there's still a long road ahead to recovery, we may actually be closer than we think when it comes to driving down the cost of healthcare.
Jan Dubauskas is a healthcare expert, enthusiastic insurance pro, attorney and mom serving as vice president of healthinsurance.com.
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