The re-election of President Obama assures that The Affordable Care Act will be deployed. But without disruptive innovation in how we deliver well care and health services to consumers, the US economy is doomed.
While the major impact of The Affordable Care Act healthcare legislation doesn’t begin until 2014, employers are already taking steps to reduce their financial burden. Larger employers are moving to higher deductibles and many are adopting a self-insured health plan. I predict self-insured employers will reach the tipping point of 50% by 2016.
An article in the Wall Street Journal referred to “A study by Rand Corp. researchers saying that families with a deductible of $500 a person or more health spend dropped an average of 14% compared with those in traditional plans with lower deductibles.” In addition, to offset trend, employers are motivated to incent their employees to live healthier lives (e.g., lose weight, not smoke, reduce alcohol, exercise).
But here’s the critical game change: Until now, the $2.7 trillion healthcare industry missed the technology transformation opportunities of information technology. The focus of medical spending for decades has been towards better medicine; yet better medicine adds to the cost, it doesn’t lower the spend.
Now, employers are increasingly signing up for new consumer well care and healthcare services like telehealth. Telehealth services provide fully accredited doctors who will give a consultative appointment over the phone or via video conference. These doctors can diagnose a wide range of low acuity care issues such as upset stomach, flu, diarrhea, headache, or earache. Telehealth doctors will write prescriptions for non-controlled substances when they determine such medication is appropriate.
In addition, telehealth services, with patient approval, will be able to access patients’ health records from different doctors in a fully securitized manner and incorporate the patient’s own health risk assessment questionnaire. Sometimes an employee’s health plan will cover reimbursement (each state has different regulations). More typically, however, employees and their families will be paying for these services out-of-pocket.
I was recruited to Apple by Steve Jobs in 1982 because he was convinced that someday Macs would be marketed like the best Big Brand consumer campaigns for Pepsi and Coke. Now, 30 years later, telehealth is poised to become the most convenient and lowest cost way that Americans will receive their low acuity care. This opportunity for consumer-centric well care will be as disruptive as anything that preceded it in other industries.
Click here for video of my comments about health care in a Bloomberg News interview.
Next week: More about telehealth and the “epiphany moment” in healthcare delivery.