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Health care preps for telemedicine shift

BY Antoinette Alexander

As technology floods nearly every sector of the economy and the Affordable Care Act moves healthcare providers from a fee-for-service model to one that reimburses based on patient outcomes, healthcare executives are gearing up for the industry’s next monumental shift. Telemedicine.

The reality is that telemedicine is not a distant possibility. While few for-profit and nonprofit healthcare leaders would categorize their telemedicine programs as “mature” (only 6%), according to the recently released “2014 Telemedicine Survey” by Foley & Lardner, the overwhelming majority are at least in some phase of development.

Target and Kaiser Permanente have teamed up to launch in Southern California four Target Clinics staffed with licensed nurse practitioners and licensed vocational nurses, as well as physicians available by telemedicine consultations, giving local Target guests access to Kaiser Permanente’s healthcare services.

CVS Health president and CEO Larry Merlo has indicated that the company is experimenting with telemedicine within MinuteClinic and has 28 sites in Southern California and Texas.

In its survey, Foley & Lardner found that 84% of respondents think the development of telemedicine services is either very important (52%) or important (32%) to their organization.

“From dramatically increasing a specialist’s geographic footprint to enabling chronic care management outside the hospital, telemedicine can transform an industry that is ripe for disruption,” the survey stated.

Fifty percent of respondents ranked improving the quality of care as their No. 1 rationale for implementing telemedicine. Another 18% were most excited about reaching new patients.

“With its ability to multiply patient points of contact at a significantly reduced cost, telemedicine enables physicians to keep closer tabs on their patients, whether it is monitoring blood pressure from a distance or ensuring day-to-day medication adherence,” the survey stated. “… Simultaneously, telemedicine lowers the barriers to entry for patients to receive advice and support from medical professionals.”

While healthcare executives welcome the patient-centered opportunities that telemedicine affords, reimbursement is a challenge. According to the survey, 41% of respondents said they are not reimbursed at all for telemedicine services, and 21% reported receiving lower rates from managed care companies for telemedicine than for in-person care.

 

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Wearable tech primed for growth

BY Michael Johnsen

It’s the early days of the wearables sector and already 1-in-5 consumers own a wearable device, and 1-in-10 use that device every day. And judging by the market dynamics that are helping to shape the sector — a society that’s focused more and more on prevention and a generation of millennial consumers who embrace technology in their day-to-day lives — the wearables market is primed for some pretty substantial growth.

This potential is fueling venture capital investment in digital health and wearable tech. By mid-2014, digital health start-ups had raised $2.3 billion, more than they raised in all of 2013, PricewaterhouseCooper’s Health Research Institute reported. More than $200 million went to digital medical devices, such as wearables. By the end of 2014, wearable companies will have shipped a projected 7.6 million units within the United States, an almost 200% increase over the year before.

Wearable tech owners tend to be younger males (e.g., 18 to 34 years old). The next wave of fitness band buyers are more likely to be older females (e.g., 35 to 54 years old). Survey respondents weighing the purchase of a fitness band said that their biggest hesitations were price, privacy and concern that they won’t actually use it.

In fact, 33% of consumers surveyed by PwC’s HRI who purchased a wearable technology device more than a year ago now say they no longer use the device at all, or use it infrequently. And 82% of respondents were worried that wearable technology would invade their privacy. As many as 86% expressed concern that wearables would make them more vulnerable to security breaches.

That said, 53% of millennials and 54% of early adopters say they are excited about the future of wearable tech. More than 80% of consumers listed eating healthier, exercising smarter and accessing more convenient medical care as important benefits of wearable technology. Nearly 1-in-2 consumers said they were “very” or “somewhat” likely to buy a fitness band in the next year. More than one-third of consumers were looking to purchase a smart watch (35%). Consumers were less interested in buying smart (sensor-equipped) clothing (20%), smart glasses (19%) or people-tracking devices (13%).

 Walgreens is certainly on board with embracing the wearables consumer. The Deerfield, Ill., retailer in early December launched its own wearable smart watch under its “Well at Walgreens” banner. The device can accept incoming calls and text messages, track steps, monitor sleep patterns and is automatically connected to Walgreens’ loyalty program Balance Rewards. Consumers earn 20 points for each mile walked using the device.

More than 80% of consumers said an important benefit of wearable technology is its potential to make health care more convenient. But consumers don’t want to pay much for their wearable devices. Instead, they would rather be paid — or earn loyalty card points — to use them. HRI’s report found that 68% of consumers would wear employer-provided wearables streaming anonymous data to an information pool in exchange for a break on their insurance premiums. Moreover, consumers are more willing to try wearable technology provided by their primary care doctor’s office.

Asked who they trust to hold their wearable data, consumers ranked their primary care doctor the highest (54%). In the survey, hospitals, pharmacies and dentists also ranked high.

While employers and health company executives expect wearables to provide valuable insights, few consumers are interested in using wearables to share health data with friends and family. Consumers trust their personal healthcare practitioners most with their health data. Healthcare practitioners already have the trust of consumers, and healthcare organizations have expertise in protecting personal health information. Consumers will want to see those high standards applied to wearable health data, especially as they become integrated into electronic medical records.

“For wearables to help shape the new health economy, next generation devices will need to be interoperable, integrated, engaging, social and outcomes-driven,” said Vaughn Kauffman, principal, PwC Health Industries. “Wearable data can be used by insurers and employers to better manage health, wellness and healthcare costs, by pharmaceutical and life sciences companies to run more robust clinical trials, and by healthcare providers to capture data to support outcomes-based reimbursement. But it will be critical to address the consumer concerns that we’ve identified, such as cost, privacy and ease of use.”

 

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Millennials crave healthy options

BY Michael Johnsen

Millennials often are perceived as healthier than baby boomers. Yet, one commonality this generation has with their baby boomer grandparents is that they worry about their health almost exactly as much as boomers do — 77% of both generations say they worry at least a little about getting a serious illness; 77% of adult millennials and 74% of boomers say they worry at least a little about affording the cost of health care — according to a new U.S. survey by Allidura Consumer and GSW, both part of inVentiv Health, and Harris Poll.

In fact, millennial adults worry about their access to health care even more than boomers (69% vs. 60% worry at least a little).

Even as millennials worry, they are proactively seeking, and consuming, healthier solutions found at the local grocery store. As many as 71% believe they’re doing everything they can to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Nearly half of all millennials have used a training program, such as P90X or CrossFit, in the past two years, and more than one-third are willing to pay more for foods they know are either organic or made with all-natural ingredients. Almost one-third (30%) have talked to a nutritionist in the past two years.

While a good proportion of millennials are comfortable consulting a healthcare professional as a nutritionist, they’re not as likely to seek a doctor for preventive care. A majority (62%) see a healthcare professional only when they get sick. That’s significantly more than Gen Xers or baby boomers (46% and 34%, respectively).

Relying on a doctor as a last resort may be a consequence of the easy access to healthcare information online. “There’s never been more health information for millennials to find, so it only makes sense that it’s never been more difficult for them to properly screen, analyze and act on the right data,” said Derek Flanzraich, CEO of Greatist.com, a popular health-and-wellness website for millennials. In fact, this survey data found that 37% of millennials sometimes self-diagnose with health problems that they don’t have. Perpetuating this “search and stress” cycle, 44% say that viewing health information online causes them to worry about their health.

“For millennials, the question isn’t who can help them be healthy, but rather what can help them,” said Leigh Householder, chief innovation officer at GSW. “To millennials, physical health is intricately connected with mental health. So, for brand marketers to be successful in reaching this audience, they must think about health-and-wellness the same way and create solutions that inspire millennials to experience health at any given moment and throughout all aspects of their lives.”

“As society shifts its focus from relying on HCPs to treat disease to taking individual responsibility for prevention and wellness, we wanted to understand how attuned millennials are to their health now, and how it factors into their everyday decision making,” said Tracy Naden, managing director of Allidura Consumer. “What we learned is that millennials’ mindset about health is very much an ever-present personal journey of wellness fueled by food, exercise and social connections.”

That social network of millennials may represent the greatest influencer on healthcare behavior — 84% trust information from people they know personally, as opposed to 60% who trust such high-profile experts as Dr. Oz and 22% who trust celebrity endorsers of health products.

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