4 Healthcare Updates Worth Taking Note Of

Some companies are taking new approaches to improve healthcare experience & lower costs

In the ever advancing world of healthcare, it can be hard to keep track of all the changes that happen.  Healthcare tech innovations increase the speed at which we can access information like patient charts and medical history, and are leading to more and more automated options when it comes to office visits, scheduling, communication and more.  Here are four interesting new developments that may have an impact on how we view as well as utilize the health industry:

1. Uber Health

Uber Technologies Inc. recently launched a new ride-hailing platform which provides a new transportation option to get patients to and from their medical appointments, without needing an app or even a smartphone.  This new service is aimed at bridging the gap between healthcare providers, clinics, hospitals and rehab centers, and their patients or clients that have transportation challenges.  It’s uniquely designed to be HIPAA compliant for the healthcare industry – with options for medical facilities to even book rides on their client’s behalf without charging additional fees.  In fact, the cost per ride is designed to be the same cost that a customer would pay for their own ride on the consumer app.  The idea stemmed from a staggering statistic that approximately 3.6 million Americans miss medical appointments due to lack of available and reliable transportation – according to Uber Health General Manager Chris Weber.  This new transportation option has exciting potential to increase patient compliance by keeping appointments, and reducing no shows or cancellations.  Uber Health may also have a significant impact on elderly patients or those that do not use ride-share applications on a regular basis, as these rides can be made and confirmed over a landline.

2.  Mobile Health Apps for Veterans

healthcare updatesThe US Department of Veteran Affairs has upgraded the tools available to veterans through the development of over 30 mobile apps to help with many ongoing healthcare issues and management of certain conditions.  The variety of apps are targeted to provide information on specific types of therapy treatments, ways to cope with certain diagnoses , as well as offer support and information in order to increase communication between veterans and healthcare providers.  These apps are also designed to improve personal and lifestyle choices by allowing the user to track personal health information, set weight and diet goals, as well as promote enhanced self-care by enabling auto-reminders for appointments or treatment times.  By adding features that allow patients to access medical records, easily refill prescriptions, and schedule appointments online (a feature coming soon), these apps  lessen the gap between patients and providers, especially for veterans in remote areas where it’s difficult to get to and from their closest VA hospital.  As if these benefits weren’t enough, there are also apps that:

  • provide tools and suggestions to help navigate behavioral issues like anger, mood, stress, and PTSD
  • provide tools to help strengthen relationships of veterans and their kids through parenting tips, and for family members of veterans to help them reconnect
  • help veterans to stay smoke-free after quitting cigarettes

*Coming soon on March 23rd the ‘VA Video Connect’ app will allow for a doctor’s appointment to be held via video– when time, travel or other condition-related limitations present challenges for veterans to get to an in-person appointment.

3. Upgrading Communications within Surgical Hospital

A hospital for Special Surgery in New York City recently switched their communications from pagers to secure cell phones.  This may seem like a small change, but it had drastic effects. As most people would think that fast communication and healthcare are not usually mentioned in the same sentence, this transition provides the ability to definitively differentiate the type of calls coming in – especially after hours, in order to accurately assess priority.  This resulted in faster returned calls for more emergent cases, and increased overall message retrieval times.  The upgrade also allows for two-way communication and ability to give context to a message, versus the one-way communication of pagers, where the priority of the call was determined by the order it came in, not the subject matter.  Not only did this upgrade save money, it also helps assist the process for patients from pre- to post-surgery, thereby enhancing the care provided by making it more patient-centric.

4. Emerging Micro Hospitals

No-frills micro hospitals with as few as 8 rooms” are popping up in both suburban and urban markets.  They are trying to fill in the gap in certain areas where there isn’t a large enough demand to justify a large facility, but still want to provide the residents with the same opportunity for high-level care.  They can also serve as a back-up to certain areas with full-sized hospitals, but offer lower-cost care as smaller facilities usually have lower overhead costs.  These micro hospitals want to improve the quality of healthcare available by decreasing wait times and providing more personal attention. They’ve already emerged in a few states so far, including: Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Texas.

As Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett called health-care spending a “tapeworm on the economic system,” these micro hospitals may be a possible solution to lowering healthcare costs, as U.S. health spending continues to rise.