In the majority of doctor’s offices and clinics, patients are required to delve into their cranial storage units (CRU) and regurgitate personal health data that may or may not be accurate. Usually this is done on a relatively standardized form of about 100 questions. In today’s information age, paper medical records still rule.
Hopefully not for long. Personal Health Records are becoming more and more common as doctors, patients, and even insurance companies begin to see the potential for cost and time savings. Patients gain more control over their records, doctors get more reliable, easier-to-access information, and insurance companies can often lower costs thanks to more accurate diagnosis.
Referrals also become easier, with each new practitioner no longer requiring yet another 100-question form be filled. Instead, a USB drive, Internet access, or even an email transfer can move records and give the provider access to what he or she needs to best serve the patient. The patient who ultimately holds control over his or her records, by the way.
Health insurance premiums for most Americans are expected to rise by 14-20% in 2011 and most employers won’t be absorbing any of that. So if you’re on a health care plan subsidized by your employer (such as a group insurance), be ready to see a hefty increase in your premiums.
Most people saw a rise in their insurance rates in 2010, with falling benefits and rising costs being the norm. Already hard hit by the economy, most Americans just tightened their belts or lived with less coverage (or both). According to National Public Radio, we’re in for another hit in the next few months.
Insurance companies are citing rising costs, changes to the law, etc. Whatever the reasons, the NPR report says that beleaguered employers will be passing all of the costs on to employees.
It’s important to not only find ways that we can lower health costs overall, by implementing better technology, better communication, and raised standards of care, but that we individually find ways to lower our own costs as well.
California launched the nation’s largest telehealth system in mid-August (called the California Telehealth Network or CTN), which connects clinics and hospitals to one another via broadband to facilitate consultations and specialty care. Shortly after CTN’s release, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions issued a brief discussing the cost-savings that could be achieved through the convergence of personal health records and mobile communication devices.
The brief explores the potential benefits of mobile communications in collecting environmental and patient-entered information and transmitting that via the Internet to a personal health record. Devices such as smart phones, cell phones, tablets and similar portable, Internet-capable devices could be combined with actionable decision support in what’s called mPHR (mobile personal health record). This would allow analysis of aggregate data to give mobile, patient-specific output like reminders, healthy habit tips, and even billing alerts.
Paul Keckley, PhD, the executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, says that ìthe personal health record embedded in mobile communication devices mPHR is the ‘killer app’ that may change the game for providers, consumers and payers [insurers].î
Dr. Keckley points out that treating chronic disease accounts for more than 70% (or $1.7 trillion) of the total $2.4 trillion in health care spending in the U.S. Much of that comes from in-office visits and outpatient care, which could be reduced significantly with patient-empowering, mobile health care monitoring ñ especially with chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases.