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How technology can support more affordable care for patients

For providers, payers and even vendors, the affordability of healthcare is closely entwined with the notions of success and sustainability, and the industry collectively must play a role in reducing costs.

The conversation around skyrocketing costs is increasingly focusing on patients—including their access, care and experience. With the advent of high-deductible health plans and the constant evolution of the larger payer landscape, more cost burden is falling on the consumer’s shoulders. A recent Kaiser report shows that high deductible health plans represent almost one third of the 160 million insured by their employers. A recent analysis found that patients who found they owed a hospital or care facility less than $1,200 have a payment rate of only 40 percent.

This is not even considering the fluctuating numbers of the uninsured, which may grow in numbers as the Affordable Care Act continues to face change and challenges.

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Among that cold financial fact and increasing financial risk for providers lies another, sadder reality: people are skipping care altogether, making difficult choices such as not seeking healthcare when needed, or even failing to refill prescriptions to instead put their dollars toward necessities, such as shelter and food.

Healthcare needs to address costs without compromising patient care, spurring a movement to more fully understand every aspect of care expenditures in a more in-depth and detailed way than ever before. Today, the technology exists to bring together the specific information needed to meet the needs of providers and patients, both of whom who are as concerned about quality as they are about costs.

As patients’ eyes become open to the actual cost of care, we are seeing a new era of patient consumerism, which has put even more pressure on healthcare providers to know and analyze their true care costs in a more granular and actionable way than ever before. The industry faces a moral imperative to ensure the system enables all patients to seek the care they need.

The current way of addressing growing costs is obviously not working. Simply looking at bottom line costs does not enhance patient care.

Instead, all participants in healthcare need to find ways to make the cost of care more visible at the patient and service line level. This addresses patient price awareness and sensitivity, while also helping gather other data to help realize efficiencies without taking anything away from the patient experience. Is the industry providing care at the best, most cost-effective location? Is it helping patients take care of themselves? Is it avoiding quality errors such as readmissions? How much does nursing cost per patient? Those are just some of the questions that can be answered.

The right cost-gathering technology evolves along with advances in healthcare treatment and processes. It enables the allocation of expenses to patient-level cost objects, by department and even by service. It takes advantage of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence. It also includes role-specific analytics, so the industry can actually predict costs for populations and become an industry that is more focused on a successful financial future, rather than present.

The time is right: with the advent of the electronic health records and the influx of more patient data than ever before, the industry can arm itself with the right information to start new and needed conversations about improving value across the care continuum. That means a better future for bedside providers, their organizations and, most importantly, their patients.

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