The evolving state of healthcare
Everyone from individuals to families to business owners are impacted by the rising costs of healthcare in the U.S. What are some key trends that industry experts are watching? How is healthcare adapting to technological advances? In our 22nd episode of the Sharing Knowledge Series, host Kevin Vonderau, chief lending officer at Westfield Bank, is joined by Dr. Jennifer Prezioso, DPM, FACFAS, founder and CEO of Balance Foot & Ankle, and Tim Juka, client executive at Oswald Companies, explore these questions as a part of a broader healthcare discussion.
Below are some top highlights from the episode with Kevin, Dr. Prezioso, and Tim. Watch or listen to the full episode below to learn more.
The shift to telehealth
Telehealth and other forms of digital health care have grown significantly in recent years, marking a shift away from patients solely relying on in-person visits with doctors.
Through Dr. Prezioso’s experience as an independent podiatrist, she’s found that the idea of “care anywhere” appeals to both patients and providers, given the convenience of HIPPA-compliant telehealth. In addition to convenience, technological advances in healthcare are empowering patients to be more involved in the care they receive from professionals.
Tim attests to the cost-saving aspect of telehealth. From his time working with companies to implement employee health insurance plans, he’s seen the significant savings that telehealth options have created.
There are limitations to consider when it comes to telehealth, however. While smartphones and technology can accomplish a lot, some medical situations are very complex and require in-person discussion and consultation. Dr. Prezioso also finds value in the face-to-face connections she builds with her patients and believes it’s critical that a degree of this is preserved.
Everyone knows the importance of having a good relationship and dialogue with a primary care provider. This is another area where technology, like MyChart, helps patients stay in regular communication with their doctors. At the same time, doctors and health insurers need to factor in the time spent providing virtual care and the associated costs.
Impact of consolidation
Preserving competition in our market could possibly keep costs down, Dr. Prezioso adds. Whether it’s health plan mergers or larger hospital systems acquiring smaller private practices, the idea behind consolidation is to decrease cost and to improve care. But as Dr. Prezioso says, whether it achieves that goal or not is not yet evident. In some cases, prices have increased due to consolidation, such as with billing to Medicare, Dr. Prezioso says. As hospital systems grow, and choices dwindle, we may see a higher demand for variety from patients who want quality, independent care.
In addition to consolidation, Dr. Prezioso also has her eye on some of the large corporations that have been making a play within the primary care market, including Amazon and Walmart. The staying power of these companies and their impact on the industry isn’t fully known yet, but it is worth watching going forward.
From Tim’s standpoint, mergers and acquisitions, in some cases, have helped with efficiency within the healthcare system. He agrees that the reduction of competition has contributed to rising costs.
It’s common for patients to come to the doctor’s office with a list of questions or worries they have based on health information found online. This can be a concern for patients raising false alarms about health scares, but Dr. Prezioso is encouraged when patients take the initiative to learn and engage, as it ultimately leads to a more dynamic and interactive visit to the doctor’s office.
With costs on the rise, Dr. Prezioso also notes that more companies are entering the wellness market and offering ways to lead healthy lifestyles that, in turn, reduce the chances of developing chronic illnesses in the first place.
Tim and his colleagues on the insurance side are watching how new technological advancements, like genetic mapping, can potentially allow medical professionals to detect conditions and intervene much earlier in a patient’s life. Pharmacogenomics is another area where researchers are using genetic methods, rather than trial and error, to identify prescription drugs to treat specific conditions. These medical advancements are promising; however, they come with significant costs to the industry.