Top Tech Trends of 2018 Driving Healthcare Cost Management

Healthcare cost management is easily one of the greatest healthcare trends emerging this year. In a new Kaufman Hall survey of CFOs, "identifying and managing cost-reduction initiatives" was considered the most important performance activity for 2018.

A healthcare employee using tech solutions that drive healthcare cost management on a tablet
Technologies like cloud communications and telemedicine are likely to grow as part of healthcare cost management strategies.

According to the New York Times, this year's announcement from Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan saying they intend to disrupt healthcare by delivering cheaper and better care to their employees — as well as continued pressure from government, consumers, and payers to reduce costs — has large healthcare organizations and smaller practices alike putting a host of new healthcare cost management strategies on the table. These include alternative staffing models and reducing administration overhead as well as reducing treatment costs by moving more patients to outpatient services. One key cost-cutting area to explore, however, lies in healthcare technology.

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Cloud Tech Makes Health Tech Affordable

As healthcare practices look to lower total cost of ownership (TCO), they must also continue to improve quality of care. To make these two competing priorities work, cloud technology will become an essential component of healthcare IT. When organizations move to cloud-hosted solutions for their business, they avoid costly internal infrastructure such as servers and storage systems. There is also minimal upfront investment when compared to a traditional, on-premise solution, which lowers TCO and allows organizations to quickly and easily scale their operations as needed.

At the same time, cloud technologies are making businesses — including healthcare practices — more agile and productive. Solutions that empower mobility, for example, allow healthcare practices to be more adaptable to patients' needs. With them, providers can more efficiently collaborate or consult with patients in outpatient settings through video conferencing and other communication channels.

Better Communication Leads to a Better Bottom Line

One high-value benefit of cloud technology is the ability of healthcare organizations to use a unified communication system to streamline back-end processes and lower TCO. Cloud solutions that automate patient engagement, for example, reduce administrative overhead while improving the patient relationship.

Healthcare practices can more productively manage administrative tasks with a unified healthcare communication solution. This technology can be integrated with a practice's CRM, automating texts, emails, and other communications, allowing healthcare practices to more productively manage administrative tasks.

With missed appointments currently costing the US healthcare system $150 billion annually, as covered by Health Management Technology, the ability for healthcare practices to fill cancellations more quickly through SMS messages and emails instead of traditional wait-list calls can go a long way toward lowering TCO.

But of equal importance, secure mobile messaging can improve patient communication and engagement. For example, patients can receive real-time information about wait times or be notified and directed to a secure portal to view test results as soon as they are ready.

At the end of the day, healthcare organizations need to continue to provide high-quality care to their patients while looking to strategically lower costs.

Accessible Care: Only a Call Away

Another growing trend in healthcare cost management is the move toward more outpatient services, such as telehealth. In a survey by law firm Foley & Lardner, 76 percent of healthcare executives said they currently provide or plan to provide telemedicine services.

Telehealth is gaining popularity because it provides savings for both patients and providers. In a March 2017 report by the Rural Broadband Association, it noted that the U.S. median savings from telehealth per medical facility is approximately $20,841 annually.

In some cases, such as in rural communities, telehealth allows patients to see care providers that they would not have had access to previously due to the extensive distances they'd have to travel. And because patients and providers can connect using smartphones or tablets with a cloud-based video conferencing solution, it's simple and convenient for both parties.

For healthcare practices, telemedicine also helps reduce costs by optimizing physicians time, lowering overhead costs, and reducing liability. For example, telemedicine allows physicians to shorten their practice hours and deliver some of their care from a home office. This can also lower payroll costs and utility costs. Physicians also gain the ability to connect with patients on a more flexible schedule so that when cancellations do occur, they can fill that time with virtual patient visits.

Finally, one of the greatest liability risks for physicians is poor documentation of follow up after patient treatment and care. When physicians call patients off hours to follow up, there is often no way to document patient visits. However, telemedicine provides a way to capture and document all patient interactions — even during off hours.

Lower Costs, Better Patient Care

At the end of the day, healthcare organizations need to continue to provide high-quality care to their patients while looking to strategically lower costs. With a cloud-based communication system, healthcare practices face little upfront costs but gain added efficiencies that save money and time.

Additionally, because a unified communications solution makes it so much easier to connect with patients, physicians find that they can more easily provide follow up care that improves their patients' health. They have also found that patient engagement increases, helping to drive additional revenue as patients become more likely to keep appointments and follow treatment plans.

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