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Health Care Trends to Get Excited About

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With the rollout of Obamacare, the national focus of health care technology has unfortunately revolved around the implementation challenges of the federal health insurance website. This narrow attention ignores some of the more exciting developments in this rapidly changing industry. To help us get a glimpse into the future, I reached out to Reggie Luedtke, Co-Founder of BlueTree Network and Branch2, companies that specialize in exploring the next generation of health care information technology. Luedtke offered these industry trends he predicts we'll see over the next few years.

Greater industrial transparency will lead to better outcomes and lower costs. Shopping for health care is a task many consumers dread. Access to high quality information to make informed decisions is unfortunately still in its infancy. Transparency in the areas of cost, quality of care, and expected outcomes will allow patients to become informed consumers and choose the best option for their health care needs. Some companies, such as Healthgrades, OkCopay, and Pokitdok, are already starting to provide these transparency solutions for individuals. The next iteration will likely include building systems that seamlessly provide guidance based on a patient's coverage, taking into account what the actual out-of-pocket costs will be, including co-pays, coinsurance, and deductibles.

Increased transparency also builds a competitive landscape for health care providers, positioning those organizations with the best care at a reasonable price to grow their practices. Even if a hospital can provide a majority of required services, it doesn't mean they're the best at all of them. For this reason, specialized care organizations that focus on a few particular and related treatments will emerge as viable options for consumers. This new landscape will put consumers in a position to share information with each other and take advantage of standardized pricing models that will both improve outcomes and lower the cost of care.

Wellness-monitoring apps will be linked to lower premiums. As the health care industry shifts to a more proactive business model, insurance companies are finding more innovative ways to motivate and monitor the health of their members. Consumers who actively track their health and behaviors, using tools like mobile apps, will eventually have lower premiums. In much the same way some car insurance companies give you the option to monitor your car's activity and provide rebates for safe driving habits, wellness monitoring will aggressively move into the health care technology space. This trend is already apparent as many health plans routinely give discounts to members who go to the gym regularly. These new wellness apps will give consumers a mechanism to learn ways to improve their nutrition and exercise routines. Consumers who adopt these habits will see lower insurance premiums, in addition to improved health.

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Health systems will embrace new technology to improve patient experiences. Health systems are starting to investigate new technologies that allow patients to be more intimately involved in their own health care decisions. They're creating in-house innovation departments and partnering with third-party organizations to define what a more patient-centric model will look like. Examples of innovators in this field include: Cleveland Clinic, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Geisinger Health System, and Kaiser Permanente. Health systems that don't innovate will begin to see patients moving toward more open systems that prioritize patient satisfaction.

Application health portals for individuals will create a more informed consumer. Decades after email became one of the most common forms of communication, most individuals still can't use this technology to communicate with their care providers. This is changing. The next step towards empowering the patient is the development of health portals for individuals. These portals will allow patients to easily connect with their providers as well as compile data from their health and fitness devices and apps. Once this data is integrated into the portal, companies such as Narrative Science will be able to condense these complex health statistics into understandable test result summaries and personal progress notes. Think of this as an iTunes or Spotify for your health, where past behaviors can be used to recommend new healthy behaviors and fitness tracking apps. The ability to access an individual's complete health and wellness data, combined with intelligent data mining and behavior modification applications, will create a more educated consumer.

As Luedtke explains, "These trends should enable us to move from a model of care that relies on delayed reactions to changes in large populations, toward providing both interactive and proactive care at the individual level." Now it's our turn as patients to make the most of these emerging tools and strategies.