Four trends driving health care in the 21st century

Technology in our hyper-connected world is revolutionizing how we work, socialize and interact. Connected systems empower our homes to conserve energy, monitor things while we’re away and ping us if a problem occurs. So if it’s 3 a.m. and you want to know whether you have a stomach bug or food poisoning, why can’t a virtual assistant connect you with a nurse?

Health care is experiencing a major reboot. By2020, close to 80 percent of employers are expected to change their health care strategy to help them better manage costs, provide quality care and increase employee engagement in their own health. Here are four key trends employers should be aware of as they make that change:

The growing impact of big data and analytics

Just as aggregated data can help health care professionals predict an epidemic or spot a problem before it’s a disease, big data is helping employers identify health trends among their employees -- trends that might be hidden by the overall statistics. UnitedHealthcare’s Health Plan Manager, for example, provides a platform for analyzing utilization, costs and population health, allowing employers to map hot spots for such things as emergency room use or discovering sub-populations of diabetes patients who aren’t doing as well as the average. These insights offer opportunities for targeted action to help improve outcomes and control costs.

Care when and where consumers want it

For millennials, the world has never been limited to 9-to-5, so why should their health care have to wait until Monday morning? Today’s consumers want health care when and where they need it. UnitedHealthcare offers clients tools to help their employees find just that. Telemedicine lets patients access health care professionals around the clock. UnitedHealthcare is also working with companies that are pushing the innovation envelope, making advanced sensors to augment virtual visits, for example, giving a doctor a way to take biometric readings remotely.

Technology continues to expand options

Technology will continue to expand health care options outside a traditional doctor’s office or hospital, including for patients with serious chronic diseases. For example, UnitedHealthcare offers a program called Remote Patient Monitoring with about 50,000 congestive heart failure patients using an in-home monitoring kit to check weight, blood pressure and oxygen levels in the blood. Anything out of the ordinary triggers a call from the nurse. Advanced wearable technology could eventually provide people with diabetes the ability to monitor their blood sugar the same way wearables now allow people to keep track of the steps they take.

Genomics ushering in era of precision medicine

Technological advances in genomic sequencing have brought the price down from about $10 million in 2008 to around $1000 now (even $199 for a basic analysis with 5-9 factors measured), ushering in the era of precision medicine. Being able to map a patient’s genome or identify specific genetic mutations in a cancerous tumor can allow doctors to accurately diagnose what’s wrong at the genetic level and decide the precise medicine or treatment likely to be most effective.

All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Virtual visits are not an insurance product, health care provider or a health plan. Unless otherwise required, benefits are available only when services are delivered through a Designated Virtual Network Provider. Virtual visits are not intended to address emergency or life-threatening medical conditions and should not be used in those circumstances. Services may not be available at all times or in all locations.