Tag Archives: mobile health

How Telehealth Changes Senior Care

Many baby boomers would be willing to give virtual healthcare a try, but they want to be sure that an e-visit or other type of remote care is just as good as the care they would get in person. They also want to be confident that their health information stays private.

For seniors who live in rural areas with few doctors, telemedicine would improve their access to healthcare and be more convenient. For many people with chronic illnesses or mobility issues, making it to the doctor’s office can be an ordeal. With telehealth, they can have the doctor visit virtually.

What Is Telehealth

Telehealth is a collection of methods for enhancing healthcare, public health and health education delivery and support by using telecommunication technology. Today, telehealth covers four domains of applications. Each state and insurance company varies in its use and reimbursement of these applications. They are commonly known as:

  • Live Video Conferencing (Synchronous): This is a live, two-way interaction between a person and a provider by using audiovisual telecommunications technology. The Center for Connected Health Policy made a micro-documentary video, “Telehealth Saves Lives,” that shows how video telehealth can be a lifesaving technology.
  • Store-and-Forward (Asynchronous): This will allow recorded health history to be transmitted through an electronic communication system to a practitioner, usually a specialist, who uses the data to evaluate the case or render a service outside of a real-time or live interaction. This technology will allow access to specialty care, even when there are limited board-certified specialists in the community.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM): With RPM, patients will be able to transmit their personal health and medical data from one location to a provider in a different location via electronic communication technologies for use in care and related support. “Telehealth and Quality of Care” is another video from The Center for Connected Health Policy that demonstrates how remote patient monitoring can help individuals stay healthy in their home.
  • Mobile Health (mHealth): This is the healthcare and public health practice and education supported by mobile communication devices like, tablets computers, cell phones and iPads. Applications can range from text messages that encourage healthy choices to large-scale alerts about disease outbreaks.

Telehealth encompasses a variety of technologies and tactics that deliver virtual medical, health, and education services. Telehealth is a collection of means to enhance care and health education, not a specific service.

What Will Telehealth Do for Seniors?

The older we get, the more health issues that arise. Therefore, seniors are more likely to experience chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Both illnesses require routine monitoring from healthcare providers.

With telehealth technology, doctors can now keep an eye on things such as blood pressure and sugar levels. Routine doctor’s visits can be costly and difficult for seniors to attend, especially if the elderly person has mobility problems or limited access to transportation.

The use of telehealth can improve communication between providers and patients, allowing physicians to monitor an older patient’s overall health. This level of monitoring can allow providers to discern when patients may be becoming sick or at risk of experiencing a medical emergency.

While seniors are at a higher risk for developing chronic conditions that require care provided by specialists, specialists are not always located in every community, and travel is often warranted. This can be difficult for seniors.

Telehealth removes the barriers of location and mobility, connecting more seniors with necessary care provided by specialists. Telehealth also makes it easier for family members who live far away to stay connected to their elders’ care program. This will relieve some of the stress associated with caring for seniors.

See also: Navigating Telehealth for HR and Employers  

When telemedicine is used, caregivers have greater access to providers. These providers can give them information that helps provide more effective care. Without a need for routine in-person visits to providers, caregivers can dedicate more time to care at home or in their own personal and professional lives.

Not only is telehealth more practical for routine monitoring and time efficiency, it is a more cost-effective option for both patients and providers.

  • Telehealth has the potential to make physicians more money, because telehealth allows for less time-consuming individual consultations, meaning the doctor has time to see more patients each day.
  • Telehealth means big savings for patients, because consultations delivered virtually usually cost less, and money is saved when travel is eliminated.

When nursing homes adopt telehealth technologies, up to $327 million can be saved each year through a reduction in the need for emergency room visits. Telehealth is a life saver and a money saver.

Medicare and Telehealth

Medicare tightly restricts what it will pay for, so seniors have a harder time getting telehealth covered. Some private insurance companies are increasingly covering certain services like virtual visits.

Luckily for Medicare recipients, Congress passed a law last winter that expands Medicare coverage for options such as video visits to diagnose stroke symptoms or check on home dialysis patients.

Medicare Part B would cover the cost of telemedicine services, but the patient needs to fulfill certain conditions.

Medicare Advantage programs are used by a third of beneficiaries and can start offering additional telehealth options. This is a step in the right direction, but it certainly doesn’t cover everything.

Costs are already a major issue for people who need continuing assistance, and telehealth is still new. For telehealth to save the most money, it will need to replace in-person care, not add to it.

More than half of adults of all ages would be comfortable with a video doctors visit via FaceTime or Skype to discuss medications, treatment for continuing care of a chronic illness or even for an urgent health concern.

High-risk patients who use daily telehealth monitoring are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital. This isn’t about just having Skype in the home; it’s about having a team of healthcare professionals who are supporting the care of a patient.

See also: Whiff of Market-Based Healthcare Change?  

The Security of Telehealth

The privacy and security of protected health information (PHI) is very important to insurance companies, doctors and patients. With new technology, usually, comes new challenges. With every problem comes a solution, and by making smart choices patient data can be protected.

Telehealth services are legally required to abide by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates. HIPAA is concerned with the protection of patient medical records, always improving privacy and reducing fraud.

To be sure the health data is safe, your telehealth system should comply with the HIPAA guidelines. To comply, you will need:

  • Business Associate Agreement (BAA): This is a written contract between a covered entity and a business associate that establishes the permitted uses and disclosures.
  • Transport Encryption: This must-have encryption for data security converts the sensitive information into a meaningless stream of seemingly random data.
  • Storage Encryption for the Videos Stored in a Device: This will encode backed-up and archived data on storage media.
  • Properly Stored Data: You have many options here like a flash drive or a cloud storage; in any case, make sure you choose a HIPAA-compliant product or service.

Telehealth can be a secure way to receive medical care and reduce further stress for seniors and caregivers. Telemedicine care is the future of healthcare. Telehealth will save money, time and patients’ lives.

Why Mobile Health Must Be a Priority

Mobile has drastically changed the way we shop, travel, pay our bills and even pay each other. But there’s one area of our lives that it hasn’t changed enough: the way we manage our health.

Mobile-focused health represents one of the biggest challenges – and opportunities – facing the healthcare industry. As more consumers connect their homes and lives across devices, particularly their phones, healthcare professionals must harness mobile health technologies and move toward a complete, mobile-optimized user experience. While most insurers already offer mobile apps, they often fail to create an experience that is both functional and intuitive.

As our 2016 Digital Healthcare Survey revealed, digital health resources have been embraced by Americans of all ages, especially by younger Americans, with 82% of Gen Y and 67% of Gen X having accessed at least one digital health resource in the past 12 months. Of the digital resources offered by health insurers, mobile apps have the greatest potential to enhance Gen Y and Gen X member understanding and autonomy, but awareness of the apps and their functionality is low. Many Gen Y and Gen X members consider mobile access to their insurance a key resource, but only one-third (32%) are actually aware of whether their insurer even offers a mobile app.

This represents a significant missed opportunity, for insurers and consumers alike.

See also: A Road Map for Health Insurance  

Fortunately for insurers, creating a mobile app doesn’t need to be overly complicated. The fundamental function of a health plan app is to provide members with access to the resources that are applicable to and useful for the mobile experience. However, many apps present far more than this – plan information, including balances, claims data and ID card information as well as coverage and benefits rates for health services, profile and account management options and customer service centers. For most customers, mobile apps don’t need all the resources and attributes of full sites – customers just want a mobile health experience that is intuitive, functional and fits in with their daily routine.

So, what functionalities should insurers be looking to include in their latest mobile app versions?

Take a page from financial apps, such as PayPal and Venmo, and offer a way for consumers to pay with ease. Incorporating payment features for claims and premiums, as well as push notifications alerting members to coming bills, would likely lead to more timely payments. UnitedHealthcare is one of the few providers that allow members to pay for a claim on its app directly by entering bank account information and then pre-filling most other important information, such as amount and payment recipient.

Create visual representations, such as charts, graphs and progress meters, to help consumers better understand aspects of their plans like deductibles and coinsurance. Presenting plan balances and claims data not only improves the aesthetics of a page, but also provides members with a summary of data that may be easier to process. For example, rather than displaying how much of the plan’s deductible and out-of-pocket maximum the member has met, has remaining and has in total within a list format, use an interactive chart or graph to provide expedient summaries of data without sacrificing any detail – a particularly important feature on a mobile app given the limited space.

Integrate health data from wearables to mobile apps (and vice versa) to encourage consumers to exercise regularly or eat healthy. Health assessments and connecting fitness apps to track movement are the most commonly rewarded activities, currently recognized by a majority of insurance platforms. Some insurers, such as UnitedHealthcare and Humana, are ahead of the curve, offering separate health and wellness reward program apps that employ push notifications to remind members to keep up with goals, such as “remember to get between seven and eight hours of sleep tonight” and “you have 2,000 more steps until you reach your goal for today.”

See also: A Road Map for Health Insurance  

While the healthcare industry overall still has a long way to go, digital health companies and startups have leveraged advancements in technology to enhance the mobile health experience for consumers. As functionality continues to improve and usage increases among younger members, the need for effective member support will become critical. Insurers should take note and make mobile health a priority – including functionalities and resources to help members better manage their health. We’ll all be better off as a result.

5 Technologies That Connect to Customers

In the past, customers tended to ignore their insurance after they purchased it. They interacted with their agents only a couple of times a year — to purchase a policy or file a claim — and then they forgot about it.

Now, technological advancements give consumers the ability to connect with their insurance products and services at all times, creating highly personalized services that are in high demand. In fact, 77% of consumers are willing to provide usage and behavior data in exchange for lower premiums, personalized coverage recommendations or faster claims settlements.

The following five new technology trends will change the future of insurance for carriers and consumers alike.

1. Vehicle Telematics

Vehicle telematics transmit real-time data directly to insurers through devices installed in vehicles. As a result, consumers receive more accurately priced premiums and better risk assessment that isn’t solely based on demographic information.

Telematics can also help align your auto insurance premium with your driving usage. This is known as usage-based insurance (UBI). By 2020, it is projected that 70% of all auto insurance carriers will use telematics and some form of UBI.

2. Mobile Health

Mobile health, or mHealth, refers to apps and wireless devices that can be used in healthcare for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. Both insurers and consumers can benefit from mHealth, and its popularity is demonstrated by the fact that the industry’s revenue is expected to reach $26 billion by 2017.

Mobile health allows insurance companies to sell policies that are specific to their consumers’ health data as well as their adherence to medications and treatment plans. Consumers can use mobile fitness apps to monitor and improve their health, ultimately reducing premium rates.

See also: 4 Technology Trends to Watch for  

3. Gamification

Gamification incorporates different aspects of games to add some fun to the insurance consumer’s experience while solving real-life issues. Insurance companies recognized the lack of customer engagement and have sought to improve this through gamification.

Though gamification techniques are fairly new to the insurance world, they are likely to benefit consumers. Gamification can turn formerly tedious activities — like tracking healthy habits or filling out a health risk assessment — into engaging games that result in rewards and continue to motivate consumers to live healthy lifestyles.

On top of its consumer influence, gamification will be used to improve the workplace. Forty percent of the Global 1000 top companies will use gamification as an incentive and to transform business operations. Keeping employees engaged, especially during a transition, can be highly difficult. Gaming technology is pioneering this issue. In 2012, the gamification market was $242 million. According to a M2 Research study, the market will be $2.8 billion by the end of this year. In other words, we have a lot to look forward to when it comes to interactive engagement as consumers and employees in the insurance world.

4. Drones and Aerial Imagery

While drones are often used as devices for personal enjoyment, they are also transforming the way insurance companies evaluate claims. In the past, insurers needed to visit a physical location to estimate damage and losses. However, drones can now capture aerial images that allow them to more quickly respond to catastrophic events and process claims. Cognizant, a consulting firm, estimates that drones will make insurance adjusters’ work flow 40% to 50% more efficient.

The insurance industry’s growing use of drones will help improve safety practices in the aftermath of a disaster by having fewer people — insurance agents and consumers — on the ground taking photos. Drones also allow insurance carriers to better assess how an event occurred and the resulting damages with high-resolution images from all angles.

5. Home Automation

As consumers continue to adopt smart home technology, from voice-controlled lights to sensors that detect pipe leaks, they will benefit from home insurance premiums that are more directly tied to their lifestyles.

Some insurance companies offer discounts to homeowners who use smart home technology that can decrease their home’s risk of damage or burglary. Smart thermostats, smoke detectors, security systems and deadbolt locks can all improve a home’s safety and can decrease your homeowners or renter’s insurance bill.

See also: How Technology Breaks Down Silos  

Insurance companies will continue to adapt as this technology continues to popularize. More and more homeowners are investing in smart home technology — 45% of all Americans, in fact.

New technology has paved the way for a more personalized experience for insurance customers. As a result, insurance companies are shifting away from transaction-based services and are moving toward building relationships with their always-connected consumers.