The cost of healthcare has continued to soar over the last few years. Today the cost of healthcare is at an all time high, and the future looks bleak if no substantial changes are made soon. The US government invests over $1.7 trillion in healthcare annually — a figure that rises by 7% each year. At this rate, the cost of healthcare could prove unsustainable in about ten years. This high cost has contributed to an increase in the number of people without health insurance. Today the number of people without health insurance is estimated at around 50 million, and the figure is only going to get bigger if the cost of healthcare does not drop.
Many solutions have been suggested to tackle the high cost of healthcare with only a few of them offering any real change. One of the most promising solutions to reduce healthcare cost and overall quality of healthcare is the adoption of intelligent technologies. Technology can lower the cost of healthcare by solving three major problems that plague the healthcare industry: inefficiency, safety issues, and patient monitoring.
The healthcare industry is plagued with inefficiency. In some healthcare facilities over 30% of medical costs are attributed to clinical inefficiencies. Technology can help reduce this figure to below 5%. Technology can also offer cheaper and portable monitoring systems for patients suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Also, technology can be used to automate repetitive processes which leads to less error, more safety and a reduction in the cost of healthcare. Below are some of the ways to reduce the cost of healthcare by implementing intelligent information technologies.
The field of communication is currently experiencing huge technological growth. There are numerous communication software and platforms available today, which can allow for a live video exchange between a doctor and a patient; it has become necessary for doctors to start adopting these platforms to curb ever rising healthcare costs. Recent studies show that almost 30% of healthcare costs are due to clinical inefficiencies and redundant administrative costs. By adopting technologies such as Skype, which allows for a live video chats between a doctor and a patient, doctors could easily consult with patients at home on non-life-threatening conditions. This can save large sums of money in costs such as administrative cost, which contribute to high healthcare costs.
Large sums of money and manpower go towards fixing problems caused by lack of proper adherence to prescribed medication. Large sums of money are spent by drug companies on research to find cures for drug resistant strains of diseases, costs which are later passed down to patients who buy the drugs. Most of this drug resistance arises when patients fail to take the drugs they are prescribed in the right doses.
By using automated software which uses a patient’s electronic health records to automatically send them reminders to take their medicine patients can easily adhere to their medication. Alternatively, patients can install applications on their smart phones that remind them to take their medication in time.
Hospital readmission rates can also be reduced by use of technology based medication management systems. Hospital readmissions also contribute to high healthcare costs, and one of the main reasons why patients get readmitted to hospitals is because they failed to take their medication or took their medication incorrectly. By using technology that reminds patients to take their medication correctly cases of patient readmission could be reduced thus reducing the cost of healthcare.
Prescription of expensive brand name drugs contributes to high healthcare costs. Doctors prescribing expensive brand name drugs maybe unaware of alternative generic drugs which if prescribed could significantly reduce the cost of healthcare. Doctors can use online based patient management systems which have a database of alternative generic drugs a doctor could prescribe his patients.
Also, by using electronic prescribing systems, badly filled prescriptions, harmful drug interactions and prescription of drugs that could cause allergic reactions in patients can be avoided. Harmful drug interactions and allergic reactions to drugs both cause medical complications, which significantly increase the cost of healthcare. By using electronic prescription systems, which send a patient’s electronic health records directly to the pharmacy, pitfalls of traditional paper based prescriptions could be avoided and this significantly reduces the cost of health care.
Lifestyle diseases contribute to about 40% of the total healthcare costs in the United States. The most common lifestyle diseases are high blood pressure and diabetes both of which are caused by poor eating habits and lack of proper exercise. Two of the most efficient ways of reducing these diseases are exercising and monitoring the body’s vital signs for any symptoms that may point to the onset of these diseases.
There has been a lot of development in wearable technology, which could help monitor the body’s vital signs for symptoms that could point to the onset of lifestyle diseases. By having patients send a chart of their vital signs from these devices to healthcare specialists, advice can be given on the proper course of action to stop the onset of lifestyle diseases.
One of the areas where robots could prove very helpful in the healthcare industry is in the issuing of prescriptions. Since issuing prescriptions is a very repetitive job some pharmacists end up issuing the wrong prescription either due to distractions or boredom. Medical complications due to taking the wrong prescription contribute to the high cost of healthcare.
By using medical robots, which use bar codes to read prescriptions and automatically package drugs, incidences of patients being given the wrong prescription can be reduced and this, in turn, reduces incidences of medical complications. Robots also reduce the cost of healthcare by reducing the number of people employed in a healthcare facility. Since a single robots can do the jobs of up to five people and it only require a fraction of those people’s salaries for its maintenance, the cost of healthcare can be reduced significantly.
The process of adopting new technology in any healthcare institution can be a daunting task if handled in the wrong way. Here are some suggestions to make sure the process goes smoothly:
Take advantage of government incentives — the government offers healthcare institutions incentives to adopt technologies that cut down on healthcare cost. Therefore, if possible, Institutions should adopt technologies that will make them viable to receive these government incentives.
Buy new technology from trusted vendors — in most cases system vendors offer maintenance services and make spare parts for most equipment. Buying from an unreliable vendor could leave an organization with equipment whose spare parts are not available or equipment which is flawed.
Train employees on how to use the new equipment – for new technology to be effective in hospitals and clinics the people using it must be well trained. Hence organizations should train their employees on how to use new equipment before buying the equipment.