Changes are coming to the healthcare landscape. People are becoming advocates for their own care, taking control of their healthcare like never before. Because Individuals can now access a tremendous amount of information regarding medical issues, they are a more educated patient population that can make better decisions regarding their own care. People can take more responsibility for their health and focus on their own wellness.
Some of these changes are structural, brought on by the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Others are technological, driven by advances that make new products, processes, and information readily available to consumers in a way that was not possible before. As one of the companies leading the transformation of the hearing health industry, we have a front seat view to what such changes can mean. We also understand that what is happening within the hearing health industry is happening throughout the healthcare world.
Here are just a few of the changes already underway:
- Video consultation with doctors
The National Center for Policy Analysis expects 7 million patients to take advantage of telehealth services by 2018. There has been some concern that video conferencing will be less effective than face-to-face interaction, but for people without a primary care physician, the option provides significant benefit with increased access to care.
- Use of a Smartphone as a personal diagnostic tool
Smartphones are now being used far beyond their original intent, being used for such purposes as taking a person’s blood pressure or pulse. Individuals can monitor their vital statistics without alerting others that they have a medical condition that requires frequent monitoring.
- Use of a health app prescribed by a doctor (both 2 and 3 are often characterized as ‘care in the palm of your hand’)
Multiple apps are available to assist in medication compliance. A new app helps skin cancer patients follow suspicious moles and breast cancer patients track treatment side effects. These apps even offer suggestions on how to manage those side effects And because these apps are prescribed by a physician, the hope is there will be better patient compliance than with a patient downloaded app.
- Many more retailer-based health services (such as Walgreen’s Healthcare Clinic)
Most people think of pharmacies and grocery stores as likely locations for retail based services, but now patients are also able to access services on the internet. One internet option is Activ Doctors Online, where patients can visit the website to get a second opinion from a panel of physicians.
- Planning and managing your personal healthcare in much the same way you do your 401k investments
In the recent past, people had few choices in retirement investments because companies managed employee retirement programs. Now the number of options available to individuals has grown substantially as employees control their own retirement savings with instruments like 401Ks and other defined contribution plans. Healthcare is poised to follow this same path as individuals take more control of their healthcare options. New insurance plans are being developed to meet increasing consumer demands. It is likely that competition will bring lower costs. In the future, consumers will be able to choose different combinations of benefits and levels of insurance coverage.
- More individual ownership of your healthcare and decisions, with a focus on wellness continuation rather than sickness intervention
Employers are helping facilitate this change by beginning to offer reduced healthcare rates for employees who choose to participate in employer-sponsored wellness programs like exercise, smoking session, or weight loss programs.
While change is often associated with uncertainty, there is the potential for much good to come from these trends. We will continue to watch as they develop, and to share our perspective on these changes, especially as they relate to the world of hearing health.
Shawn Stahmer has been the VP of Business Development at Sound World Solutions since 2012. He is responsible for marketing and business development and he has a passion for sharing Sound World Solutions’ mission to create and deliver high quality, affordable hearing devices that allow people to rediscover the power of connection, no matter what their geographic location or economic circumstance happens to be.