Health care in America is changing due in part to Obamacare, advances in technology, and concerns of employers and insurers about the state of health in this country.
The Affordable Health Care Act is going to change the way doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies deal with diagnosis and treatment of patients. Combined with new technology, it will give more responsibility over to the patient in deciding the course of their care.
Over the next few years, patients can expect to see some or all of the following changes.
Pharmacies serving as health consultants
This development is already being implemented. Stores such Walgreens, CVS, and regional supermarket pharmacies have expanded their offerings to include wellness checks, vaccinations, and specific health screenings. Some are offering limited clinics to advise customers about treating colds and other minor conditions as well as giving advice about prescription interactions and side effects. They may also conduct general physicals and forward results directly to the patient’s primary doctor.
Employers expanding health care and fitness rewards
More and more employers are realizing that keeping employees healthy cuts down on their own health insurance costs as well as reducing sick days and diminished productivity. As a result companies are building incentives into their benefits plans. These may be as simple as cutting a few dollars off insurance premiums for employees who don’t smoke to offering discounts on fitness club memberships, bonuses for participation in weight loss programs, or offering on site health screenings and vaccinations. Expect to see these types of programs expand in the coming years.
Expansion of Electronic Health Records
Thanks to government incentives, doctors, clinics, and hospitals are working to convert to electronic health records. These digital patient records will be able to follow a patient from the doctor’s office to the hospital and from city to city or state to state. They will allow for the attachment of x-rays, MRIs, and other results from testing facilities to be combined with doctor reports, vital statistics, and even prescription data. Perhaps best of all, prescriptions can be sent electronically to the pharmacist, eliminating confusion and prescription errors based on interpreting doctor handwriting.
Technology changing and replacing office visits
Today’s smartphone apps allow users to track their BMI, blood sugar results, and calorie intact. In the near future, apps will email such data directly to the doctor to be added to the electronic health record. When a patient is sick or injured, they may have a brief Skype consultation with a nurse practitioner rather than having to take time off from work to go in for an office visit. Another advance will include conducting pre-exam interviews via computer prior to coming into the office so that more time is spent on actual care.