Whenever you sign up for a new group health care benefit plan for your company or receive communications from your insurance carrier about new benefits, there’s a good chance the insurer is using technology to provide you with better service.
Insurers previously used technology to manage only the claims process and settle payments with providers. Today, technology can do so much more. Here are just a few ways insurers and the health care industry are using technology to save members money while improving the level of health care:
According to research advisory firm ABI Research, artificial intelligence (AI) applications will save the global health care sector an estimated $52 billion by 2021. AI refers to software-driven systems that analyze data to make decisions and take actions. Some ways AI may affect health care this year:
• Virtual Medicine: Individuals who have access to telemedicine can talk to a health care provider by phone or through a personal computer any time of day or night to discuss minor health issues such as a cold, flu, allergy or sprained ankle. This is particularly helpful to those who live in rural communities and who have limited access to health care providers. AI-enabled tools also allow providers to monitor their patients at home or in the clinic.
• Second Opinions: Clinicians can use algorithms to accurately review data sets to screen for pathologies. For instance, a study presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress found that AI can be an invaluable aid to help pulmonologists interpret respiratory symptoms accurately and make a correct diagnosis.
• Predictive Analytics: AI can combine data from a variety of sources, such as a patient’s genetic test and their electronic health record to provide timely alerts and suggestions to a care team. As the technology develops and becomes more widespread, AI could help diagnose strokes, eye disease, heart disease, skin cancer and other conditions.
• Data Analytics: Providers can draw important insights and information to discover which practices are most effective to cut costs and improve the health of the patients served by health care institutions. Data analytics also can help develop insights on the systemic waste of resources; track individual practitioner performance; track the health of populations and identify people at risk for chronic diseases.
Technology can address consumer frustrations by providing easy access to information about benefits and member claims, and schedule health care appointments in a timely manner.
Digital assistants or chatbots are used on website landing pages to help answer product questions and are very popular, according to a Price Waterhouse Cooper analysis. Many physicians encourage patients to use their online portal, where they can view lab results and send messages directly to their provider with questions between appointments.
Nanomedicine is the medical application of nanotechnology to diagnose, treat and prevent various diseases by delivering medicine precisely to the place it’s needed and in a manner that limits unwanted side effects. For instance, instead of treating cancer with chemotherapy that affects the entire body, nanomedicine delivers the chemotherapy directly to the tumor while minimizing exposure to the rest of the patient’s body.
Surgeons now have access to tools featuring cameras and mechanical arms, which give them a high-definition view of the surgical site. According to the Mayo Clinic, these tools increase precision, reduce the chances of infections and are minimally invasive, which can result in smaller scars.
There are four core uses of 3D printing in the medical field. 3D printing is used to create:
• Tissues and organoids
• Surgical tools
• Patient-specific surgical models
• Custom-made prosthetics
One of the reasons 3D printing is becoming popular is the customizable aspect of the technology. 3D printing can even be used to produce realistic skin for burn victims.
Many health care institutions are already using virtual reality (VR) to assist in a variety of situations because it can provide a multi-sensory, immersive experience. VR currently is being used in the following settings:
• Training health care workers
• Training surgeons in a realistic and low-risk simulated environment
• Offering therapy and rehabilitation for acute pain and anxiety disorders
For example, VR is being used to help stroke patients practice and relearn daily activities. The VR health care services market is expected to grow from $8.9 million in 2017 to $285 million in 2022.
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