Surging health care costs have presented a burden to providers and patients for several decades now, and the problem doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Forecasters estimate that healthcare costs will continue to rise unless serious steps are taken to lower expenses. The U.S. currently has the most expensive healthcare in the world, so a further increase could spell disaster for people already struggling under massive debts and for providers desperate for ways to cut costs and save their practices. Here are a couple of practical steps to reduce cost without sacrificing quality of care.
According to Access Medicine, a major issue associated with healthcare costs is the arbitrary and labyrinthine pricing system that patients must navigate. Because providers hope to bargain better reimbursement rates with insurance companies and governments, they often set prices artificially high for an advantageous position once the negotiation process begins. This practice may make sense from a business perspective, but it results in massive headaches and undue stress on patients who should be focused on being healthy. A commitment to total price transparency, which should include going over options with patients before receiving care to avoid any unexpected expenses, can help with the financial planning aspect of care and help providers collect in full from patients who are prepared to pay for the care they receive.
Telehealth uses communication technology like the internet to provide care to patients who are unable or unwilling to visit a doctor in person. Surveys have indicated that the burden of travel is a major barrier to impoverished or elderly people who might need medical attention but cannot travel to an office, especially if they live in a rural area. Many global initiatives have focused heavily in recent years on increasing opportunities to receive care among vulnerable populations.
One of the most promising advancements in medical technology is the use of phones and the internet to deliver care. According to Carenet Health, nurse advice lines improve care access by making speaking to a healthcare professional easier. These are hotlines or web applications that enable patients to discuss health issues in real-time with a qualified nurse who has experience in the area of concern. Nurse advice lines aid the healthcare system by cutting down on wait times, eliminating unnecessary emergency room visits and providing quicker access to advice than more conventional methods of healthcare delivery.
As technology presents new opportunities to save money on healthcare costs, we have reason to hope for a future of lower prices for everyone. And when healthcare becomes more affordable, it becomes more accessible — creating a physically and financially healthier society.
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