Oh how our healthcare has changed

Remember what medical care used to be like when we baby boomers were just kids? Our doctor came to our home. Our records were written in longhand. Our prescription as often as not was something like, “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” Oh how things have changed! That’s why BoomerCafé thinks it’s interesting to publish this piece that we saw on MedTech Boston, which originally was written by Angelica Recierdo for Brigham Innovation Hub. It’s not about old-style healthcare; it’s about the Top Ten Healthcare Innovations just last year.

Our friends at the Brigham Innovation Hub recently developed a list of the Top 10 Healthcare Innovations of 2015, which we’re excited to share! Their process began with gathering answers to this big question:

What are the most promising upcoming healthcare innovations that are likely to have the biggest impact on improving patient care in 2015?

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They pulled clinical and industry perspectives with special note to current healthcare trends. Then they compiled a shortlist of 30 innovations, which were voted on by more than 450 of Brigham Innovation Hub’s subscribers (mostly BWH clinicians in a variety of health fields and members of the healthcare innovation community).

Here are the results:

1. Use of “Big Data” to reduce costs for high-cost patients

Only 5% of patients account for a whopping half of U.S. healthcare expenditures. Using “big data” can create algorithms for identifying patients who would more likely be “high-cost,” i.e. patients with multiple co-morbidities. This information can then be applied to make actionable predictions to prevent re-admission of this patient cohort.

2. Financial incentivizing of healthy behavior by employers

Although half of all U.S. employers offer some kind of wellness program, it is not usually taken advantage of by employees. To lower their own costs, employers are now seeing that they have to be more active in helping their employees be healthier. Companies are spending more on healthcare than they did 5 years ago and that’s because a healthier workplace means increased productivity.

3. Innovations for managing outpatient behavioral health

Up to 30% of Americans have a mental health condition but less than a quarter of them seek help. Hospitals partnering with outpatient mental health agencies create a teamwork approach to patients in crisis. The link can seamlessly transition patients in and out of the appropriate facilities when an episode occurs. The use of telepsychiatry is also on the rise, providing counseling services to remote patients.

4. Better reimbursement for telemedicine leading to greater use of telehealth and digital health by clinicians

The expansion of telehealth services being covered by Medicare and the increase in coverage of patient distance is making telemedicine a more viable option for clinicians’ plans of care. The addition of imaging and monitoring offered in digital health services also adds value to these visits making them comparable to physical clinical encounters.

5. Healthcare delivery goes retail to increase patient engagement

Retail giants like Walmart and CVS want to get out of our medicine cabinets and into our lives. The call for providing deeper services to its customers comes from the belief that better health outcomes can be fostered in community settings like at your local pharmacy.

One type of wearable bio monitor.

One type of wearable bio monitor.

6. Increased use of “wearables” in hospitals to detect continuous biomarkers

The use of wearables allows for inexpensive continuous physiological monitoring with little manual intervention. On busy inpatient units, sensors serve as the eyes and ears to alert clinicians of safety issues and sudden medical emergencies.

7. Increased prescriptions for health apps

Mobile apps connect care from home to hospital and allow patients to take more responsibility and interest in their own health. Apps that can reduce costs through remote consultation will be the most valuable for hospitals. Listen to BWH Chief Innovation Officer, David Bates and his thoughts on how health apps can improve care of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

8. Care delivery innovation for end-of-life care patients

The goal of end-of-life care is to reduce suffering and respect the wishes of the dying. These patients require more care coordination, continuity of care and timely care encounters. The use of telemedicine and digital health could enhance the care delivery of this sensitive patient population. Read more about Atul Gawande’s new book “Being Mortal” on the uneasy conversations clinicians have with their dying patients.

9. Increased use of 3-D printing

Brigham & Women’s Hospital is using 3-D printing to better map out the techniques of face transplantation pre-operatively and to follow the progress of patients post-operatively. This provides better visualization for surgeons and better satisfaction with appearances for patients.

10. Better care delivery and engagement for the large number of newly insured and millennials

The number of millennial (people born in the 80s and 90s) Americans now surpass the Baby Boomers. They are more culturally diverse than any other generation and more budget-conscious. They are also more difficult to engage with traditional marketing campaigns and will surpass their parents’ earnings by 2018. Health plans that can succeed at influencing this group will reap the benefits of retaining this demographic.

2 Comments

  1. Good article on how our healthcare has changed. I must admit reading, “Only 5% of patients account for a whopping half of U.S. healthcare expenditures,” wow, that’s an eye-opener. I wish insurance companies would use the data to somehow encourage that segment to take better care of themselves–if possible. If employers look for ways to incentivize workers, maybe we can do the same for insurers, right?

  2. Interesting overview of “Healthcare Innovations.” Of course it all sounds good, but how it works out in reality is another story. In the past, what was touted as progress and better care often turned out being ineffective and problematic for the patient. Would like to read reviews from patients who have experiences these “Innovations.”

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