4 Major Medical Tech Movements Happening in 2017.

Anyone that works in the medical field has at one time or another exclaimed that technology is incredible, and it really is amazing what tech advancements have done for the healthcare industry and patient care. Medicine and technology go hand in hand, as health demands create a need for technology to fill and in turn technology shapes the medical industry. Technological advancements are why doctors, nurses, and other medical staff need to be constantly learning new skills in line with the equipment and other tech that they use every day.

These advancements come in the form of space-age pharmaceuticals and expansions in noninvasive treatment, among many, many other things. In addition to changing treatments, technology also changes the way healthcare professionals treat, monitor, and communicate with patients while also improving patient care. Below are the four biggest tech movements in patient monitoring and care moving along in 2017.

Big Data

A major benefit of technological advancements in patient care is that it also yields a lot of information gathered from a variety of places that all add up to paint an important picture. The added ability track information paired with high-tech analytics reveals a lot in terms of medical research and treatment. For example, in the United States, big data has been a valuable tool in accurately predicting which patients are more likely to bounce back to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, and it also indicates the suggested treatment plan for each patient based on statistical analytics.

The trick is to make the data meaningful in order to derive any use – otherwise, you have a pile of information without a purpose. Done properly, you can harvest vast amounts of anonymous data to create a personalized treatment plan for every patient.

Wireless

Nowadays everything is wireless, and medical patient sensors are finally catching up. The forefront of patient care is wireless sensor technology that provides wearable, disposable medical sensors. It is estimated that more than five million on these sensors will be distributed by 2018. This tech development makes the patient more comfortable, but will also feed the big data expansion. Wireless sensor technology allows for continuous, highly accurate monitoring of change in condition while also recording and alerting medical staff when necessary.

Remote care

Remote care is increasingly important and that is primarily due to the shifting population demographics. The U.S. population is an aging one and there is an ongoing growth in chronic illness patients, both connected and unconnected to aging. One option is telehealth, which includes appointments and other treatment typically conducted via a webcam. However, it can also include home medical devices that are a part of long-term treatments for chronic illness. At the end of 2013, around three million patients were being treated with remote care and that number is expected to grow to 19 million by 2018.

Electronic Patient Portals

All of this technology is useless unless doctors, nurses, patients, researchers, and insurers have easy access to it. Electronic patient portals offer a secure platform to share important medical data among several parties. Detailed EPPs include content management options, member profiles, blogs, discussion boards, glossaries, support groups, and more. This combines the benefits of a social network, but in a medically focused way (versus posting selfies).

How is a Corporate Wellness Program Important For Your Company?

Employee wellbeing is a top concern of every business owner. You want your staff to be healthy for their own benefit in addition to being physically and emotionally able to do their jobs. After all, productivity is directly related to employee state of mind and body. Employers are recognizing this and are implementing employee wellness programs, consciously investing in efficiency and productivity.

A recent study revealed that although 70 percent of employees report that corporate wellness programs are important to them, much fewer participate in what is offered. This is likely because employers do not understand what their staff is looking for and how to get them interested. Overall, 86 percent of employees surveyed said that stress management help is important in a wellness program. Jobs are the primary cause of stress in day-to-day life so it only feels natural that an employer joins the fight against it. Coming in second is physical fitness at 85 percent, with the closely related weight management in third place with 80 percent. All of the things that employees say they need help with are also leading causes of a myriad of other health issues that can quickly spiral out of control.

The Workplace Wellness Program Study sponsored by the United States Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Family Services reports that about half of employers in the country offer a wellness program, and those typically include wellness screening activities that aim to identify health risks and promote healthier lifestyles.

The result of this is a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in exercise frequency, smoking behavior, and weight control among program participants. Participation in a program over a five-year period has also been linked to lower healthcare costs and a reduction in the need to use the healthcare system.

Corporate wellness programs are not a one-size-fits-all solution. When choosing a program, consider your unique corporate culture and what is important to your employees, and incorporate that into the plan. Programs should fit your employees’ lifestyles, which also means giving them the downtime needed to enjoy these benefits. Use the program as a fun way to encourage and inspire your staff by fueling their competitive fires with contests and goal incentives.

The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities to educate employees and offer them support in taking advantage of these programs. Encourage them with incentives today while making a plan for the future, as it really takes a forward thinker to consider long-term gains. Partnering with a professional corporate wellness service provider can help business owners and executives properly create, implement, and manage an effective (and cost-effective) employee well-being program.

Medicare And ACOs Open The Door For Telehealth Adoption.

Telehealth, defined as “the use of technology to deliver health care, health information, or health education at a distance,” is getting extra backing from government agencies and medical insurance in 2015. Medicare announced that it will start reimbursing physicians for chronic care management while other supportive laws are passed all over the country.

State legislatures across the U.S. are also expanding payment authorization for telehealth and mobile health services with more than 20 states allowing private insurance to reimburse telehealth services. And one by one, more states are joining this group. Legislation and insurance coverage varies by state, but you can find more information from the NCSL.

Medicare will be authorizing payment for real-time video and audio physician appointments, but several states, including Tennessee and Alabama, have included mobile health in that definition. Mobile health is also called mHealth and it means the medical practice supported by mobile devices. It is most popular in treating patients in rural areas but is gaining popularity in a variety of settings.

So far, eight states have issued regulations on establishing a physician-patient relationship via technology. Leaders in Congress, insurance companies, employers, and patients from every corner of the country are backing the telehealth movement. States that have adopted telehealth legislature and mandated insurance coverage have seen that it is a cost-effective alternative to in-person medical consultations.

These efforts are supported by the American Medical Association and the Federation of State Medical Boards. These organizations have been championing policies that would streamline the process. The most important thing is that the quality of care does not suffer in its transition to the internet. So far, all signs point to telehealth being a more effective and cost-effective method of patient care in many cases.

Digital Health Innovation: Beyond the Trends.

It’s an exciting time for healthcare in the U.S. New legislation and changing pay models create opportunities for innovation. Small businesses and start-ups are filling those needs. In Chicago, the opening of MATTER, a community of digital health start-ups, last month signals this changing landscape. Thanks to increases in partnerships with business, the media, and investors, health technology start-ups are actually creating change.

For the first time, healthcare is cool. Twitter feeds announce the latest healthcare grant awards and hospital partnerships like political news. With trendy devices making healthy living a status symbol, the time for digital health is now. But true change isn’t the outcome of trends. Change is the outcome of inventive companies, like Helix Health included in Ari Garber’s  “8 Innovations That Caught My Eye” article in the Huffington Post this Friday.  To effect change and improve people’s lives, start-ups and small businesses need to continue to innovate beyond the buzz of trends.

According to a Healthcare Provider Innovation Survey conducted by HIMSS and Avia, some of the largest barriers to healthcare innovation are both human and financial capital. This infographic details some of the study’s findings.

Employee diabetes care cost weighing down on U.S. businesses.

Diabetes has long been a rapidly growing problem in the U.S., often called an epidemic. Currently, more than half of all Americans are pre-diabetic, so they are on the cusp, but can benefit from preventive care. In 2005, 18.5 million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes, which rose to nearly 26 million in 2011 (that is about 8.3 percent of the U.S. population). Experts expect this number to skyrocket to 40 million Americans by the end of 2015. This can be attributed to an aging population or rising obesity rates, or many other factors, but what is evident is that it is a national problem that employers must face.

In addition to harming people, this runaway growth of diabetes is also hitting employers across the country. Employees that are ill with diabetes have higher healthcare costs than their coworkers without diabetes, which is no surprise. However, the difference is a staggering $10,000 per year (roughly). The average employee’s health care costs are $2,500 on average, while those with diabetes usually cost more than $13,000. Total health care and related costs for diabetes treatment add up to about $174 billion per year.

Although the majority of that ($116 billion) is attributed to direct medical costs like hospitalization and other medical care, $58 billion of loss comes from indirect costs like disability payments, absenteeism from work, decreased productivity, and premature death. Absenteeism is a serious problem for employees suffering from chronic illnesses, especially those with diabetes. Men with diabetes miss work 11 days more than other men without diabetes, and women with the illness miss about 9 days more than women without.