The Cardiologist's Wife: Healthcare in 2023
by Lisa Tedder
In the last few years, personal health has become a concern for most people due to Covid. The pandemic exposed weaknesses in our health care system, highlighted the need for people to be proactive about their health and made mental health a priority. We have learned that the world is indeed a small place and that working together can lead to better outcomes for all. Climate change, evolving technology, supply chain issues and a slowing economy will bring additional challenges that must be factored into the equation. Experts predict the following trends will impact healthcare in 2023.
As the impact of climate change on our well-being becomes more obvious and occurs more frequently, people will see the value in taking care of our planet. People will expect to see leadership from local, state and the federal governments in combating the worst of climate change. People will make greater efforts themselves by seeking sustainable transportation and farming practices, turning to renewable sources of energy, buying local produce, reducing food and other types of waste and recycling.
To reduce insurance and health care costs, employers will turn to value based payment models such as advanced primary care (APC). With APC, employers contract directly with primary care providers (PCP), replacing fees for services with monthly per member payments. The PCP coordinates patient care with a support team including mental health providers and health coaches, making referrals to specialists as needed. This includes access to telehealth services and on-site clinics at the workplace.
There will be a greater focus on mental health as employers recognize that mental health is tied to job satisfaction and employee productivity and retention. Employers see a need to reduce employee stress and burnout on the job as backed up by the fact that 24 million Americans quit their job between April and September of 2021, an all-time record. Employers will likely offer flexible and remote work schedules and find ways to emphasize fitness and good nutrition.
Health insurance companies are working to increase access to care by providing for telehealth coverage for mental health services, as there are often not nearly enough mental health providers covered under insurance plans. As more people admit their struggles with depression, there is a growing sense of normalcy in seeking help for mental problems just as one would for a physical ailment.
Consumers will increasingly turn to telemedicine or to retail health clinics located in stores like Walmart for fevers or other minor issues. The ability to be seen same day or within 24 hours at a convenient time, location and price point appeals to busy Americans who do not have time to wait weeks for an appointment or take off from work. Congress passed a law in 2022 that provides for certain health care extensions of Medicare telehealth coverage in order to facilitate patient services in underserved areas. Telehealth medicine not only allows consumers to see doctors from the comfort and privacy of their own home at a reasonable time, but also makes it possible for small rural hospitals to have coverage from specialists that they otherwise would not be able to provide to patients.
As health care costs soar in the U.S., consumers will price shop in other states or even other countries for procedures, especially electives like cosmetic or weight loss surgery. Costs in other countries can be as much as 90% cheaper than in the U.S. Some insurance plans cover medical tourism costs including health care and travel fees but check before booking your surgery. Do your homework before heading abroad for medical procedures; check the reputation of the physician, hospital or clinic, travel costs, language barriers, follow-up care and more.
One in three smartphone owners already use some sort of app to monitor their health and fitness, so it is hardly surprising that there will be an increase in wearable wellness technology like smartwatches. These devices provide a wide variety of functions, such as allowing users to keep track of their sleep patterns, check blood sugar levels and share information with their doctors. Some are sophisticated enough to monitor heart rhythms, blood saturation, detect atrial fibrillation, falls and even call 911 if the wearer is not moving. Some insurance plans will pay for part or even all the cost of wearable wellness monitors.
Health care will find an increased role for artificial intelligence beyond Siri and Alexa. AI can handle administrative tasks such as pre-authorizing insurance, managing patient records and tracking information from patient monitoring devices like the previously mentioned smartwatches. Health care workers can enhance diagnoses and treatment plans by using AI to analyze symptoms, detect disease, sort through treatment options or detect abnormal results. This results in better outcomes for patients and more job satisfaction with less burnout for health care workers.
The health care industry is constantly adapting its practices and developing new therapies to provide better care. In the new year, keep an open mind and be prepared to take advantage of new technologies and practices when presented with the opportunity. Your health is a precious gift, so take the best care possible.