Five Digital Health Trends To Watch in 2018

Technology continues to change how Americans work and live, especially when it comes to health care. New advances are changing how health care is paid for and delivered, putting access to information at our fingertips and creating a more seamless health care experience.

With that in mind, here are five digital health trends that consumers and business leaders should watch this year.

Mobile Payments: The health care system is modernizing how care is paid for, including the addition of mobile payments. More consumers are using mobile wallets such as Apple Pay®, to pay for qualified medical services from a health savings account (HSA) with their mobile devices. These new capabilities allow for more convenient transactions at health care providers’ offices and pharmacies, which can help save people time and facilitate faster payments for care providers.

Wearable Sensors: The wearable-technology market is booming, with revenues expected to reach nearly $52 billion by 2022, according to a recent research report from Markets and Markets. This is good news for consumers, as these wearable devices enable people to track their daily steps, monitor their heart rates and even analyze sleep patterns. Employers and health plans are including fitness trackers as part of corporate wellness programs to help improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs.

Remote Medical Monitoring and Treatment: In addition to wearable sensors, other consumer devices are being offered to help enable more widespread remote medical monitoring and treatment. More consumers now have access to telemedicine services through smartphone apps and online, to help provide more convenient and cost-effective care. People with specific medical issues can also access resources such as wireless scales, which can notify health care professionals about sudden weight fluctuations that could signal the need for immediate medical attention.

Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence and machine learning leverage troves of data to help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of health care services. The potential applications are wide-ranging, including closing gaps in care, eliminating unnecessary treatments and improving the speed and accuracy of customer service calls. In the future, artificial intelligence will be increasingly deployed to predict disease before someone is afflicted; understand what facilities or physicians produce the best outcomes for a specific condition; and engage patients so they receive care in a timely manner.

Blockchain: The rise of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, has garnered numerous headlines, but the underlying technology, known as blockchain, has significant potential for health care. A blockchain securely and cooperatively shares database transactions across multiple computers to provide a synchronized source of truth that can help automate processes and may improve the security and integrity of health care information, reducing data reconciliation costs and easing administrative burdens. Blockchain can help consumers store and share complex health data, which may help health professionals personalize care and make it easier for everyone to navigate the health system.

Start the Year Off Right: How to Get the Most Out of Your Health Care Benefits

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New health plan benefits began in January for many Texans. Now is a good time to understand your coverage so you can get the most out of your plan, stay healthier and even help save money in 2018.

These tips can help you maximize your health plan’s offerings:

Learn the lingo – Make sure to understand basic health plan terms such as deductible, copay, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum. A recent UnitedHealthcare survey found that just 9 percent of Americans could successfully define all four of these important terms. Need a refresher course? If so, spend a few minutes to better understand common health insurance terms and your specific plan amounts to help you make more informed decisions.

Know what’s covered – You can usually find your coverage and benefits information on your insurer’s website or in plan documents so you know what’s covered and what’s not. Review this information before you start using your plan and receiving treatment so you’re not surprised by costs later.

Stay in network – Choosing doctors in your plan’s care provider network will most likely mean you’ll pay less. Also, check out 24/7 telehealth services. “Virtual visits” can help save you time and money by providing convenient access to care for certain medical issues including allergies, bronchitis and seasonal flu.

Save on medications Make sure your medications are covered by your plan, and ask your doctor about generics to see if there’s a more affordable and equally effective alternative. Also, getting prescriptions through the mail is often a good cost-saving option. Most plans enable you to order up to a three-month supply of medication you take regularly, sometimes at a discount. Your medication will be delivered right to your home, saving you a trip to the pharmacy.

Shop around and get cost estimates – Several health insurers offer online health care tools and resources that enable you to check on the quality and cost of health care services and care providers before you make appointments. Be sure to double-check the cost with your care provider before getting treatments, as prices can vary significantly for the same procedure within the same city.

Take advantage of wellness programs – Many health plans offer discounts on gym memberships and provide financial incentives, some more than $1,000 per year, for completing health assessments, signing up for health coaching programs, lowering your cholesterol, losing weight, meeting walking goals or quitting smoking. Incentive-based wellness programs are designed to reward people for making healthier choices and being more engaged in improving their well-being.

Look for medical grants – Some charitable organizations offer child medical grants to middle- and low-income families who don’t qualify for Medicaid. For example, the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) provides families with grants of up to $5,000 annually per child ($10,000 lifetime maximum per child). Recipients do not need to have insurance through UnitedHealthcare to be eligible. Since 2007, UHCCF has awarded more than 15,000 grants valued at over $40 million to children and their families across the United States. Families can read eligibility criteria and complete an online application at www.uhccf.org.   

Dallas Cowboys’ Tyrone Crawford and UnitedHealthcare Donate Gym Equipment for Students at Voice of Hope Ministries

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Tyrone Crawford addresses children at Voice of Hope Ministries at a ceremony introducing new gym equipment made possible by a $10,000 donation from UnitedHealthcare of North Texas. Listening are, (l-r), Scott Flannery, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of North Texas and Edward L. Franklin, President and CEO, Voice of Hope Ministries.

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Tyrone Crawford and UnitedHealthcare of North Texas recently teamed up to donate new gym equipment to Dallas’ Voice of Hope Ministries, a non-profit organization that provides after-school and out-of-school care to low income children from pre-k to 12th grade. Crawford joined UnitedHealthcare leaders at a dedication ceremony at Voice of Hope on January 10.

(l-r) Flannery, Crawford and Franklin pose with the donation from UnitedHealthcare to Crawford’s Dreambuilders program.
Crawford helps a child use the climbing wall.
Children using the new climbing wall.
Crawford assists a child on the pull-up bars.