The United States may be infamous for its health care – especially in terms of cost and the availability of it. However, the country is doing much to try and balance it in terms of quality.
In particular, the US is on a path of digitalisation, utilising current and upcoming technologies to find new cost savings – and provide a better level of care in the process.
In total, the use of digital resources is forecast to save the country's health care industry more than US$100 billion (around AU$129 billion) over the next four years, according to a new study by Accenture.
It's something that is almost certain to reach a global stage. Australia may even prove to be one of the next early adopters, given the nature of the private health insurance industry – one where health funds are always trying to provide value for money in a competitive market.
Health care going digital
The research estimated that FDA-approved digital solutions – such as internet-enabled devices and specific software "created for detection or treatment of a medical indication" – saved the industry $6 billion last year.
This sum is predicted to now rise to $10 billion by the end of this year, reach $18 billion in 2016, $30 billion by 2017 and soar to $50 billion in 2018 – an estimated saving of US$108 billion over the next three and a half years.
At the clinical level, digital innovation is taking off in the monitoring, diagnosis and therapeutic abilities of medical facilities, with all three aided by new or improved technology.
Consumers, meanwhile, will have a significant role to play in keeping an eye on their own health care needs, through innovations such as wearable technologies that help to identify symptoms of an illness before setting foot in a clinic.
A doctor on your wrist – kind of
Wearable devices improve the data collected around medical conditions, and could help doctors build a prognosis. In fact, Accenture pointed out that there's a growing demand for US citizens to self-manage their own health care through such wearable technologies.
In total, the number of consumers in the US who own a wearable fitness device will nearly double over the next five years, from the 22 per cent it is at today to 43 per cent by the end of the decade
A separate Accenture survey found that more than half of these US consumers (57 per cent of them) are ready and willing to begin monitoring and managing their own health information online. Such things they will look at include:
- Their medical history – 37 per cent of respondents to the survey said they will do so.
- Their physical activity – 34 per cent responded positively to this, with fitness devices today able to track calorie intake and expenditure.
- Their symptoms – 33 per cent said they will use their devices to monitor signs of illness and self-manage their health.
And yet, while this is all very well and good on paper, in reality, the method for getting approval on new innovations in medical science is lengthy – which is essential for ensuring they will only help and not hinder.
Improving funding and speeding up approvals
In the US, $6.5 billion is being pumped into funding such digital improvements, with FDA-approval growth expected to be three-times what it was last year.
Accenture's report continued to explain: "Recently released regulatory guidelines for low-risk health products, establishing a line between when a wellness tool – such as a heart rate monitor – becomes a medical device, will enable more clarity on the process, expedite regulatory pathways and is expected to drive 30 per cent annual growth of these solutions through 2018."
In all, this aims to get more innovations to market and make them useful to the health care industry sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, if you are looking into purchasing private health insurance in Australia, you will want to make sure you're getting the most of your investment.
HICA is independent from health funds and can offer a free and impartial service for comparing and finding a health insurance policy that is right for you, your family or your employees.
Contact us on 1300 44 22 01 to find out more.