A severe disconnect has emerged in the way technology is utilized for healthcare in the U.S. Yet, in terms of technology investment, the US healthcare system is ahead of many other countries. Currently, the US is the leader in health care technology development in terms of spending. This issue can be traced to outdated delivery systems and restrictive regulations. The bold challenge for IT to save the healthcare system is complex and involves creating a program which can be used by everyone at an affordable price.
There is no source or menu of prices available that shows the cost of a doctor’s consultation, hospital stay, treatment costs, and medicines.
One major point of contention is that the US spends $9,000 per capita on healthcare. In comparison, other advanced countries like Japan, spend less than half that amount per capita. Unfortunately, this does not translate to a healthier population with a higher life expectancy.
In 2016, 7.6% of Americans reported that they were uninsured for more than a year with 17.1% being uninsured for part of the year. Furthermore, among those who consider themselves as “poor”, the uninsured rate was 26%, while for those who were “near-poor” the uninsured rate was 23%.
The model for the American Health Care Act uses a mix of private and public funding. It also makes use of private doctors and healthcare providers who are reimbursed for their costs. Those who do not have insurance, or are not qualified under their insurance, must pay the full price out of pocket. Due to certain restrictions, including those imposed by drug regulations and pre-existing conditions, the health care system does not cover every person, nor every disease. The central challenge for Americans seeking healthcare is the ability to pay. In contrast, European countries, as well as Japan and Canada base their healthcare system on a government insurance program leading to lower hospital bills for citizens and residents.
IT Makes Healthcare More Efficient
Some perceive that one place where money can be saved in the US health care system is in information technology. Healthcare, as an industry, has not yet harnessed automation and information technology where you can ask questions, as well as see comparable costs from other hospitals and healthcare providers. There is no source or menu of prices available that shows the cost of a doctor’s consultation, hospital stay, treatment costs, and medicines. Without improvements that lead to cost transparency being executed efficiently, estimates of these total costs prior to a consultation or operation are still years away.
The initiative for the Electronic Health Records (EHR), included in the Affordable Care Act, is an important step in creating an integrated database. However, the process has not been standardized, and no system has been developed for sharing this information. The offshoot of this includes a possibility for duplication of needed tests and other services.
Although tech companies are at the forefront of new developments, the delivery system still lacks communication capabilities between agencies, hospitals, and health care providers. Additionally, there is still an issue regarding the lack of transparency when it comes to cost estimates. Among other things, an integrated EHR with access to pricing information can help lower the cost of services for everyone across the US.