How tech has revolutionized healthcare for millions of Americans
In the United States, it costs about $10,000 per person to treat a common chronic illness.
Today, that price is $30,000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In Australia, that same number is $40,000.
And for people in Canada, that number is now $70,000 for a single person.
“The cost of care is growing at such an astonishing rate,” says Dr. Amy Gertner, a physician and senior scientist at the Kaiser Health Tracking Program.
“If we can get to a point where we can control costs and deliver care at a reasonable cost, then there’s no reason to continue to have an uncompensated care model.”
Gertners team has been working to develop a model that would allow people to pay for care using their smartphones, even as they are treated.
In the coming months, Gerters team will test it on a small, privately run program that’s funded through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which will then take the model and make it available to the public.
That could help to solve some of the lingering questions about how technology will change health care delivery.
In a recent study, the VA tested the technology in California and found that it reduced wait times for appointments by up to 15% for people with chronic conditions, and it saved the VA $3.3 billion over 10 years.
The technology also could help patients to manage the costs of a costly hospital stay.
But Gerterners team has focused on the public health aspects of the project.
For example, the technology can track an individual patient’s blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and more.
And it can detect the onset of certain diseases, such as cancer, and prescribe medication for those conditions.
“That’s really exciting because we’ve got a lot of really promising ideas,” Gertsner says.
The goal is to make the technology available to everyone in the U-verse community, not just a select few.
In other words, people with preexisting conditions should not be forced to wait in line to receive a prescription.
Gertson’s team is now looking for a partner to take over as CEO.
The challenge is that the private health insurance market is growing.
“There are a lot more people than ever who are not insured,” she says.
“And it’s not just people who are insured who are having health issues.”
That’s why Gertseners team is looking for an insurer to help make the tech affordable.
In her experience, private insurers have been reluctant to invest in health technology.
“We’ve had to be extremely careful to make sure we are doing this in the right way to get this technology out there and that it’s safe,” she explains.
“I think a lot can be achieved in this space by making it available on a voluntary basis.
I think that’s going to be a much more attractive option to insurers.”
She also says the technology is likely to be cheaper than what people would be paying for if they were forced to pay a co-pay or deductibles.
“A co-payment or deductible could add up to hundreds of dollars a year,” she notes.
“So it’s certainly something that can be delivered to those who really need it.”
The team hopes to have the technology ready for prime time in the next few months, and then test it out on a large sample of people who’ve had a stroke or have had other health problems.
And with the technology now available, Gerets team will be able to compare it with other systems like the Medicare Advantage plan.
“It will provide an excellent benchmark for those people,” she adds.
But while Gertersen is excited about the technology, she’s also skeptical.
“This is an important project,” she admits.
“But it’s a difficult one.
There are a number of things that need to be addressed before it can be widely deployed.”