Digitally enabled health care is surging in use and availability thanks to the pandemic. As consumers shift into the driver’s seat when it comes to managing their health, so too must health plans and providers shift from delivering care to empowering their members to be more proactive when it comes to their health.
There are a growing number of digital technologies that are advancing this mission. For example, tools such as remote patient monitoring, telehealth, virtual primary care and personal health apps can identify gaps in care, access health records, connect to providers and help manage chronic conditions. These actions can help individuals stay healthier and potentially reduce the need for costly health care services in the future.
Here are three ways digitally enabled health care can enhance health and lower costs.
1. Health apps provide game-changing information
It’s no surprise that 85% of Americans now own smartphones. But what is perhaps surprising is there are more than 350,000 health engagement apps and programs. And that number is increasing.
To support their members, many health plans offer access to an array of digital health engagement tools. A prominent example is Sydney Health, which UniCare offers to its members. These apps often leverage gamification techniques to recommend personalized action plans and motivate people toward achievable health and wellness goals. For example, the Sydney Health app helps users evaluate health care quality and cost, access virtual care, manage prescriptions and track their nutrition.
When people find an easy way to engage with a particular modality — like telehealth — they will become more comfortable using it to access care and take greater control of their health and wellness.
2. Chronic condition management tools
More organizations are offering digital-first services that simplify self-management of chronic conditions. These conditions can be an emotional and physical burden, as well as a financial one. Considering that 90% of health care costs are driven by chronic conditions, virtual tools to manage them are critical to improving health and lowering costs.
For example, Ibis Health, a new virtual chronic care management platform that UniCare offers its Medicare Extension plan members, offers daily connected care, round-the-clock monitoring and one-to-one monthly support. To date, Ibis users, who are often older adults battling chronic conditions such as COPD, diabetes, and heart disease, are reporting 37% fewer hospital admissions. Fewer hospital admissions mean lower overall health care costs for everyone.
3. Personalizing health care with data
Personalized experiences abound in many aspects of consumers’ lives. Streaming services suggest new TV shows or movies based on previous viewing. Grocery coupons are presented to shoppers based on past purchases. These and countless other personalization examples are made possible by the abundance of available data. Here, too, health care is following suit.
Massachusetts health plans are personalizing and enhancing each individual’s health care journey using data, because a tailored approach can more effectively help people lead healthier lives. Many tools leverage AI and similar analytical resources to give health and wellness information specific to a person’s own health status. They can even use data-driven insights to identify and encourage specific actions that someone could take to improve their health.
Many health plans have the technology to analyze data, develop population-specific strategies and create a culture of improved health. Analysis of aggregated health data could, for example, suggest the start of a spike in flu cases. Based on this type of information, a health plan or an employer working with its health plan could remind members about flu prevention — just one example of the hundreds of ways these insights can benefit specific populations.
The advent of digital health is showing us that health care must become more personal to proactively advance health and wellness. More than ever, we must offer people the tools they need to take control of their health and encourage its use. Better use of data, new digital tools and personalized solutions will guide us toward better health and lower costs for everyone.