3 Ways high-tech companies are making health care almost painless
Since 2009, my life has been full of appointments with doctors, trips to the pharmacy, planning for accessible accommodations when traveling, and fighting with an insurance company about one issue or another.
That year I miscarried, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and my then-two-year-old had surgery for a brain tumor (side note: Thanks to modern medicine and amazing doctors, he is in perfect shape). For a time, I also took care of my dad, who has been disabled since being hit at high speed by a drunk driver a few decades ago.
I am not alone. 1 in 10 Americans age over 40 care for both kids and parents, a number expected to grow by 8% in the next 5 years according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That's a lot of appointments, medications, and accommodations.
Add to that the fact that Americans are carrying more of the costs associated with medical care, many of us are feeling overwhelmed. According to a recent USA Today article, almost half of working-age adults have put off doctor visits or other care because of the cost. Consequently, consumers are demanding more options when it comes to convenience, access, efficiency and cost.
As a social media professional and tech junkie, I'm pleased to see that medicine is finally catching up when it comes to technology. Healthcare has been slow to adopt technology and social media, primarily due to healthcare organizations and tech companies having to contend with HIPAA privacy laws when developing new programs and apps.
Luckily, almost 2 decades since HIPAA was passed into law, we're finally seeing progress. Here are three tech-driven companies making healthcare easier:
This service has changed my life for the better. Okay, sounds a bit dramatic, but if you're like me — taking daily meds for years and visiting pharmacies on the regular — you're going to wonder how you lived without this service. I originally discovered the company through a Facebook ad, and after learning more, I signed up that same night.
I set up an account at pillpack.com in about five minutes, the site recognized me and found my prescriptions. They did the rest: Their pharmacists transfer over scripts, contact doctors for refills and communicate with customers via phone and email. Yes, email! Hello, 2015! I even added over-the-counter supplements like flaxseed oil and vitamin D into my individual dosing packets.
Packets come on a perforated roll, pre-printed with date, time and dose, and come in a convenient countertop stand. Meds are shipped twice per month and I'm billed monthly for co-pays and supplements not covered by my insurance.
One drawback: They failed to bill my insurance (although I provided it), and charged me $200 for meds that should have only cost about $20 in co-pays. They assured me they've processed the refund but 3 business days later the money still hasn't shown up back in our account. You may want to call and check that they got your insurance info during enrollment, and follow up on if they're using it prior to your first billing. There's no charge for shipping or handling, just what you'd normally pay to any pharmacy for your medications.
"Patients own a bigger portion of the cost of care, so the idea of 'the doctor will see you now' is shifting toward 'the patient will see you now', says Chris Pace, Director of Digital Strategy for Dignity Health Arizona, "Consumers are more tech savvy, and have become acclimated to booking reservations, video communication, using social media as the new 'word of mouth,' and healthcare systems are playing catch up with other industries."
Dignity Health has invested in InQuicker, which allows patients to reduce some of the stress of an urgent care or emergency room visit by shifting the majority of the wait time to their home or office. Patients pre-register online and then arrive at an assigned time to be seen immediately. Pace says that telemedicine, or seeing doctors online via video for simple services — say an earache or rash — is on the horizon as well.
According to a white paper on the site, 30 million people age 15 and over in the U.S. have difficulty walking or climbing stairs, three million use a wheelchair and 11 million use crutches, a cane or walker (not to mention millions more who are sight and hearing limited). My dad falls into this category; he has been disabled since a car accident in the '80s. He suffers from chronic pain and requires the aid of a cane and walker.
Of course, this won't keep him down: He refuses to miss his grandsons' school recitals and our jaunts to Disneyland. As you can imagine, it requires a lot of preparation to ensure he has accessible travel accommodations, since he can't walk long distances or step over high bathtubs.
Travel industry, take note: BrettApproved allows disabled consumers to review hotels, airlines, restaurants and other venues on accessibility and willingness to accommodate varying needs, and assign a "brettscore," demonstrating the quality of services provided.
If you're wondering, there really is a Brett behind the site, Brett Heising, CEO, founded the site after working a high-powered PR job, for which he traveled much of the time. After experiencing the frustration of having to move hotels to get an accessible room (he uses a wheelchair, and knows all too well that reserving accessible accommodations and getting them are two very different things), he founded the site to help others avoid the same situation.
(Full disclosure: brettapproved.com is a client of mine; however, this post is not sponsored, and I was not compensated by any entity mentioned.)