Embracing Technology in Healthcare

This week I want to highlight two articles about how technology is positively impacting our health. The first article is about telemedicine, what it is and how we can make it work. The second article is announcing a new app between Apple and Aetna which provides rewards for healthy behaviors. Below you’ll find these articles and my thoughts on their implications.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed below are those of Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Preferred Medical.

Here’s how to make telemedicine work 

Telemedicine is the use of technology to diagnose and treat patients remotely and there are a lot of great benefits that come with it. Although around 70 percent of large companies provide telemedicine coverage, only three percent of employees actually use it. Many experts say the main reason is due to lack of employee knowledge. Employers need to do a better job of educating employees on how and when to use this service they receive through their healthcare benefits. Not only is telemedicine an advantage to the employee by offering 24/7 care, less wait time at the doctor and often times saving money, the employer also benefits by reducing the number of employees missing work due to illness.

Mark’s Thoughts:
Have you heard that telemedicine is here and the answer to most of our healthcare issues? Well, when it comes to adoption in the workplace, value is tied to how the employer rolled it out then reiterates its value and best time/place for use. This winter’s flu season is the perfect time to remind everyone. When most employees aren’t virtual but actually in an office, designating a private space for telemedicine consults would be a great investment. Interestingly, the author believes that dental and vision are coming soon to a screen near you. When it comes to maximizing your health, addressing an issue early is key. Seems like the Jetsons nailed it in 1962. The question at this point isn’t whether telemedicine is going to be part of society and workers’ compensation—it’s how it will be used. Virtual (telephonic, apps) cognitive behavioral therapy is already well accepted. Telemedicine allows for better specialization (finding the best doctor, not just the one in your town) and can increase responsiveness (ever had to sit for hours in a waiting room? It’s a colossal waste of time). And then add in wearable technology (to measure your blood pressure, level of activity, sleep patterns, glucose monitoringchips embedded in pills to verify compliance and gathering data for clinical trials) and there are ever increasing ways to deliver healthcare without being in the room.

Apple and Aetna are teaming up on a new app to help track and reward healthy behavior 

Apple and insurance company Aetna have teamed up to create an iPhone and Apple Watch app that rewards healthy behavior. The app is called Attain and works by creating individualized goals, recommendations, notifications and rewards unique to each user. When released this spring, the program will be available to Aetna members with an iPhone 5s or later.

Mark’s Thoughts:
The wave of the future—I mean present. Connecting trackers to wellness to insurance. Aetna’s Attain certainly isn’t the first app of its kind, but given the “tens of millions of people” covered by Aetna and CVS and the direct tie-in to Apple’s iPhone and Apple Watch app, it certainly brings scale. A ring or a buzz tells us we need to get water or to stand up or walk around (or per Aetna to get a flu shot or medication compliance)…so we drink water, stand up and walk around. We are being conditioned to respond and at some point it will be an autonomous reflex. It’s for our own good (better health, lower healthcare premiums), but I view this somewhat as an experimental extension to Pavlov’s dogs. Tech and healthcare—a perfect marriage. I have seen people randomly stand up and start marching in place or shaking their arm (the latter is to apparently try to “fool” their wearable). It’s a “brave new world.” Have you been trained by your app yet? Is this a good idea? I guess it is if we can’t do the right thing of our own volition.

To read everything on my mind this past week, please visit me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marks-musings-february-11-mark-rxprofessor-pew/.

Until next week,