4 ways technology could help fix health care

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4 ways technology could help fix health care
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With the recent announcement that Amazon, JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway are going to take on the nation’s sick health care system, much has been made about how this massive undertaking would look.

The entities involved are run by two of the richest men in the world — billionaires Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett — with the backing of the largest bank in the United States, JP Morgan Chase. So what’s at stake? Quite a lot, actually.

Amazon, JP Morgan & Berkshire team up to take on health care

Skyrocketing medical costs, along with the politicization of our health care system, have made a simpler, cheaper way for Americans to receive medical care all but a necessity. And prices aren’t getting any more affordable, with health care costing $10,348 per person on average in 2016, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

But what would a new health care system look like? What would be the major tentpoles included in the Amazon-JP-Berkshire plan? USA Today recently ran through some pretty thorough predictions in four areas:

Telemedicine

If it’s one thing companies like Amazon and JP Morgan Chase realize it’s that consumers adapt quickly to technological change. Oftentimes, it is big business that needs to catch up. So it will be with telemedicine, which has already made inroads into health care over the past few years. Many schools and other facilities have kiosks that can serve patients medical products without the hassle of a doctor’s visit.

When it comes to smartphones, there are already several apps on the market — like Dr. on Demand and Amwell — that allow doctors and other health professionals to treat patients,  and even write prescriptions, without being in the same room with them.

Medical data

A harbinger of the future health care landscape can be gleaned from Apple’s recent update of its Health App, which now allows people to access their available medical data on their iPhone.

Paired with computers in doctors’ offices, Apple sees the feature as a one-stop shop that can help medical providers quickly and easily see their patients’ allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results and other vitals. The feature is scheduled to be fully integrated into many of the nation’s hospitals and clinics this spring.

Drug prices

There has been a blame game going on when it comes to who is responsible for rising drug prices. On one side are retailers like Caremark from CVS Health, who serve as middlemen to customers. On the other side are the pharmaceutical manufacturers, drugmakers who feel that they bear the brunt of public anger although costs tacked on by vendors helps inflate the prices of their medications.

Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has reportedly long considered the idea of opening an online pharmacy, a move that could turn the entire industry on its head.

Robotics

While we’re still a long ways from C-3PO and R2D2, robots that can assist us in our daily lives are already here. Along with self-driving cars, companion robots are a burgeoning market ripe for the innovations of the health care industry.

Check this passage from Medicalfuturist.com, a site run by Dr. Bertalan Mesko:

Certain robot companions can serve as a social partner in order to alleviate loneliness or treat mental health issues. The JiboPepperParo and Buddy robots are all existing examples. Some of them even have touch sensors, cameras and microphones. Thus their owners can get into discussions with them, ask them to find a great concert for that night or just remind them about their medications.

These examples aren’t proof that we can innovate ourselves out of our health care woes, but they do illuminate the possibilities that are very much in our grasp.

“Should we pin our hopes for a complete transformation?” Martin Gaynor, economics and health policy at Heinz College, told USA Today. “No, I think that would be a mistake.” But “I think there’s some real potential here for upside. I don’t think we should let perfect be the enemy of the good, and if there are some things they come up with that make an impact, I am certainly all for it.”

Clark on the concept of ‘reinsurance’

Until new changes are in place, we all have to do what we can to make our current health system work. To that end, money expert Clark Howard on the February 23, 2018, episode of his podcast last week talked about the concept of “reinsurance,” which lawmakers in several states are discussing as an alternative to excluding people with pre-conditions from health care plans.

“So the idea of reinsurance is that you set the premiums based on an expectation that most of [your employees] are going to be healthy, and the few that end up with a major illness are still covered under the plan that you and I would be,” he says. “But the federal government or the state picks up the cost of that individual who ended up with the expensive cancer, or heart disease chronic illness or whatever.”

Reinsurance could be a viable option for states “instead of allowing insurers to go back to the old system of excluding people who have a pre-existing condition or not covering serious conditions,” he says.

RELATED: Apple releases Health App feature that stores your medical records

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Craig Johnson is a conscious money-saver who still reads paperback books and listens to vinyl. He likes to write about how technology is making things easier and more affordable — but also sometimes more dangerous — for the modern consumer. You can reach Craig at [email protected]
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