What are the Benefits of the Health Care Technology Revolution?

Technology affects nearly every single aspect of modern society. In fact, there isn’t an industry that hasn’t been affected by the high-tech revolution. Whether it’s communications, banking, transportation, security, or health care, each industry counts on technology in one way or another. But nowhere is this impact more apparent than in the fields of medicine and health care. Technological breakthroughs are restructuring the way health care is delivered.
Telemedicine is one of the major changes in the health care system today. Telemedicine allows for patients to interact with doctors via a computer, tablet, or mobile device. It allows patients to check in with their doctor more frequently without a waiting period. For a rural state like Maine, telemedicine can expand access to health care for those living in isolated areas. And for lobstermen who are often working long hours, it can provide more convenient access to the health care system.
Maine is one of the most rural states in the nation; 11 of our 16 counties are identified as “rural.” Long distances and a lack of public transportation limit access to health care services for a large percentage of Mainers. Health care practitioners, including primary care providers, specialists, and mental health providers, can use telemedicine services to evaluate, assess, diagnose, and treat a variety of serious health conditions remotely. They can even save lives.
Two of the insurance providers in Maine’s Health Insurance Marketplace offer this service. Harvard Pilgrim offers telemedicine via its Doctor on Demand application, which allows for anyone, not just those enrolled in their insurance plans, to visit with a doctor whenever and wherever through a smart phone, tablet or computer. Harvard Pilgrim members pay the primary care physician (PCP)-level cost sharing. No referral is required to see a Doctor on Demand provider. If you are not a Harvard Pilgrim member you will have to pay the full price ($49/visit).
Anthem also offers telemedicine through their Live Health Online application, through which members can have live video visits with a doctor at any time, day or night. Members need a smartphone, a tablet or a computer equipped with a webcam and Internet access. This feature allows members to get medical advice, diagnoses, treatment, and even prescriptions in about ten minutes or less. Members also can talk to a licensed therapist or psychologist from home. Anthem also offers a NurseLine open to members anytime, day or night. A member can get answers to health questions from a nurse, who can also help the member decide where to go for care and how to deal with a health issue.
Advancements in technology have also started to influence the quality of life of elderly people. New technological solutions are aimed at keeping seniors at home rather than in a nursing home. As baby boomers age into their golden years, caregivers and families are looking for ways to keep loved ones safe and well-cared for at home. New technology allows for seniors to avoid unnecessary visits to the emergency room or stays at costly nursing homes.
Devices that remotely monitor health conditions such as blood pressure or glucose levels allow the elderly to remain at home. Wearable and “smart home” technology can capture an individual’s sleep patterns, number of steps taken in a day, heart rate, and medication schedule and other data in real time. A health care provider can use these technologies to monitor such things as when the light in the bathroom was turned on and how often a door was opened during a certain time. Although some may feel it smacks a little of “Big Brother,” this type of remote monitoring can allow an elderly person to stay home without a caregiver unless medically necessary. Some medical researchers predict that this form of telemedicine will explode in use in the near future. Although these programs are still in the beginning stages here in Maine, it’s likely residents will put them to good use.