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How Technology Reduces Healthcare Costs

by Paul Watsdon

HealthCare: How Technology Impacts The Healthcare Industry

Healthcare costs are rising at an alarming rate every year. According to projections by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), healthcare costs are anticipated to rise by an average of 5.5 percent every year over the next ten years. On a global scale, the World Health Organization calculates that healthcare costs rise by 4.6 percent annually.

Unfortunately, high healthcare costs are not being offset by health insurance. Today, 44 million Americans are uninsured and another 38 million have inadequate health insurance. With millions of people suffering from chronic diseases and depending on reliable but affordable healthcare, the high costs are making it difficult for them to achieve the care they need.

Fortunately, with a competitive healthcare market, new technologies are being developed to improve the efficiency of hospital operations and lower the overall cost of healthcare.  Let’s take a look at how these things can benefit the industry.

Reduce the Demand for Healthcare

The adage “prevention is better than cure” is still true to this day and it’s what many developers of medical technology follow. When people focus more on being healthy in the first place, they lessen the risk of getting sick and reduce the demand for expensive medical treatment.

This is why wearable devices that promote a healthier lifestyle, such as smartwatches and FitBits, are popular. They can monitor the number of steps the wearer takes and the amount of calories they burn every day.

In addition to wearables, health mobile apps are also popular, especially ones that help people plan their meals, regulate their sleep cycle, and do yoga or meditation. Although some of these devices are expensive and some applications are paid, they are relatively cheaper than long-term treatment or being confined in a hospital.

Provide At-Home Medical Support

Telemedicine is a growing trend in the healthcare industry. With the help of smartphones, video conferencing, and accessible internet connection, medical professionals are able to provide information or consultation without the need for the patient to go to the hospital.

Also, healthcare startups have made it possible to send drugs and doctors to patients’ homes. As such, medical practitioners can do in-home patient treatments, removing the need for a hospital stay that could cost thousands.  Doctors can then make remote data entries through cloud services, allowing them to access patient information anytime and anywhere. Not only are these initiatives cost-effective, but they are also efficient.

Streamline Hospital Operations

A quarter of healthcare spending goes to funding administrative tasks in hospitals. Some physicians spend more time entering patient notes into electronic health records than actually treating the patients.  As a result, it takes longer to attend to patients properly, ramping up their hospital bills. What’s more, these administrative tasks are not an effective use of physicians’ time.

Technological advances, such as management software, helps medical practices automate these repetitive tasks and simplify processes. With these changes, physicians don’t have to spend a significant portion of their shift entering data manually or filling out forms. They can focus on their job of providing quality care for patients.

Cheaper Prescription Medication

One of the biggest chunks of healthcare expense goes to drugs or prescription medication. Generic drugs and biosimilars help, but these options are only available for drugs with expired patents. The development and production of newer, more effective drugs are still expensive.

Fortunately, technology can lessen the cost of research, manufacture, and distribution of prescription drugs.

First, artificial intelligence or AI helps in the research phase when developing drugs. Through machine learning, researchers may identify early issues that might cause a drug to fail. Then, they can modify the drug or decide right away to discontinue its development so they can avoid a more costly testing stage.

In addition, automation can lower the production cost of the drugs. With the help of machines, manufacturing processes can be streamlined and costly human errors can be prevented.

Some startups have also developed online technologies that make it easier for people to find the cheapest and most reliable alternatives for the drugs they need. When doctors prescribe medicines that happen to be too expensive for the patient, the patient simply will not buy them. Patients end up becoming more ill, and pharmaceutical companies—with demand for their medicines low—end up raising their prices to profit from their cost of production. It becomes a vicious cycle of poor health and expensive healthcare.  The technology that helps them find options for their budget and health plan improves the delivery of medication.

These are only a few of the ways in which technology is helping lower healthcare costs. More advancements are further improving the healthcare industry. With these, patients can stay engaged in maintaining their health by sticking to their medication and receiving the consultation they need. The result is a thriving healthcare industry that doesn’t compromise the quality of healthcare for more affordable alternatives.