The Future of Healthcare: Will it Mirror the Evolution of “Wealthcare”?

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By Jesse Ambrosina 

Gone are the days when one worked for a company his or her entire life, retired from that job and enjoyed the fruits of that labor through a pension. Though pensions are still around in a limited capacity (giants such as UPS, Coca-Cola, 3M and others still offer pensions), most folks find themselves solely responsible for providing for and investing in their own retirement. In fact, GE recently announced it would offer pension buyouts for approximately 100,000 former employees who have yet to receive pension benefits. 

For many of us, we’ve come to accept this reality, and for some in the workforce, this is all they’ve ever known. Between 1998 and 2015, the percentage of employers offering traditional pension plans to new hires fell from 50% to 5% according to Willis Towers Watson, a benefits advisory firm. 

Today, it’s common to manage our own finances and retirement through a variety of tools, services and planning resources. Some people to choose to work with a financial advisor, while others take on more ownership through online investment tools. Others might just choose to opt for an employer-sponsored plan and just let it ride. 

Whatever the case and however invested you are, the responsibility — with few exceptions — is yours and yours alone. Is healthcare delivery following the same trajectory? 

A brief history of care 

Consider our parents’ and grandparents’ generations and how they approached healthcare. They would — and in many cases, still do — see their primary care physician, and take her word on everything regarding their health. Rarely were questions asked or second opinions sought out. There was very little personal buy-in to the process or “shopping around” for procedures, medications or other therapies. 

Today, the way care is delivered — and received — has shifted dramatically. My generation has more buy-in to the entire healthcare process and our personal journeys within it. We’re now “shopping around” for where to get routine lab work or an MRI. If we’re facing a surgery, we’re researching surgeons’ board certifications, reviews and reputations. In many cases, we’re still limited by a physician referral process, so we don’t completely own our entire healthcare journey, but generally speaking, we’re highly engaged in the process. 

We’re also experiencing the rise of usable, intuitive online web records and portals with our patient information that allow us to access our information, which is one of the first steps to manage one’s own healthcare. 

The shift – why now? 

There are several factors that contribute to why we’re now seeing this shift, many of which have to do with accessibility. 

About 10 years ago, the government really began investing into healthcare IT across the country and we’re really beginning to see this finally take shape today. Because of this, we’re able to access lab results on our iPhones or view scans from our laptops. By virtue of accessibility — fueled by investment in healthcare IT — we have more ownership of our healthcare. 

We’re also experiencing a broader shift in how healthcare is delivered to a more proactive and preventative approach rather than traditional reactive healthcare. And just as providers are incentivized to deliver better care through a pay-for-performance vs. pay-for-service reimbursements, payers are likewise incentivizing patients to take a more proactive approach. Some insurance companies offer discounts or credits from a variety of proactive health measures, from smoking cessation to gym membership reimbursements to discounts for steps tracked via wearables like Apple Watches. 

Healthcare costs traditionally skyrocket for the last five years of one’s life, particularly for those who weren’t personally invested and proactive in their care, but this has generally always been the case. Of particular note, however, is that healthcare costs under our current system are approaching 20% of our gross domestic product, which is up from 5% in 1960 – essentially in one generation.  

Driving innovation

Demand drives innovation, and it will continue to do so. This is as true in healthcare as it is in many other industries. In addition to accessibility, what other tools will we need to fully own our healthcare? Think back 15 years ago — so many of us never could have imagined Uber. What will the “Uber of healthcare” be (other than, well, Uber, which is making its own play into the space)? 

How we manage healthcare will very closely mirror how we manage our finances and our retirement planning. Some people will do most of it themselves. Others might turn to the expertise of a consultant for healthcare equivalent of a financial advisor, many will take the route of employer-sponsored options. It won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution because that’s rarely the answer when it comes to innovation and radical transformation. 

We know that shifting to a more proactive care approach is better for patient outcomes and better financially. The earlier we invest in our care, the better our health our futures will be. And today, and into the future, the responsibility to invest in and own our healthcare will be completely up to us. Invest wisely. 

Jesse Ambrosina is COO of Ivenix.

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