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The Future of Healthcare Part 2: The Next Industry to be Disrupted

Dianna Labrien, Freelance Writer and Content Strategist, @DiLabrien
08.05.16
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In the 1950's, some people in the insurance industry decided that, in addition to car, homes, and lives, they could offer health insurance. Thus a huge industry was born. And from that time forward, healthcare and pharmaceutical costs continued to soar, along with health insurance premiums. It has now reached a point of crisis.

No matter what your feelings about Obamacare or health care in general, economists state that healthcare is the most immediate and urgent threat to America. Millennials especially are concerned that they are now left with cleaning up the mess that the Boomer generation has left to them. And hoping that government will a health care and big pharma industry is not in the works, whether Obamacare remains or goes.

There are several aspects of health care that are seeing disruptions, and, if the trend continues, it may very well be that people, entrepreneurs, alternative medicines, and, of course, the Internet, may, in fact bring a major disruption to the healthcare industry. What government will not do, creative, savvy people will. Here are some innovations in health care that we can look forward to as we move further into the 21st century.

Delivery Systems
1. Innovative Doctor-Driven Delivery:
Doctor burnout is a real thing. And so it just makes sense that doctors are becoming entrepreneurs within their own professions. And the result has been turning medical care into a retail business that is lean and mean, far more affordable, and incorporates a business-to-consumer model. These new clinic models are beginning to spring up across the country with varying types of models, but, in general, they offer the following:
  • Latest technology in maintaining patient histories and records
  • Online scheduling of appointments and emergency care
  • Pricing transparency up front
  • Video conferencing with specialists when needed – appointments made with specialists if necessary
  • Emergency care with equipment and services featured in any hospital emergency room
  • Wellness programs, especially targeted toward prevention of cancer – kitchens in which healthy food preparation is taught, exercise and yoga classes, alternative medicine education, and stress management
  • Dental care
  • Focus on treating as much as possible without hospitalization.
  • Plans at annual premium payments by individuals and/or companies or as walk-ins.
These entities are corporations formed by entrepreneurial physicians – physicians who want to deliver health care in new and less expensive ways.

The results? Pretty astounding. Here's an example.

Zoom Care of Oregon

The mantra of this health care corporation is "twice the care at half the cost." And, in fact, some of the costs have been whittled by 1/3. An average emergency room visit in Oregon is $1500. The average cost for Zoom's emergency room visit is $500. And this cost includes X-Rays, CT scans, MRI's, and tests. Buying a care plan through Zoom is within $5 of the lowest health care plan on the Oregon exchange, with far lower out-of-pocket expense for the consumer.

2. Patient-Controlled Delivery
Another major trend among millennials is to dump traditional health care systems in entirety. These include several disruptions, two of which are the following:
  • Internet video doctor visits in which patientы describe their symptoms, receive a diagnosis or treatment plan and then follows-through on that prescribed plan, with follow-up visits initiated by the patient. Even Walgreens is getting into the act with online mental health assessments. The healthcare industry is highly critical of this delivery protocol, stating that without seeing a patient and running appropriate tests, diagnoses are little more than guesses. Younger generations, on the other hand, are tired of the cost of traditional health care and, for non-critical illnesses and symptoms find this an easy and efficient method of obtaining treatment. This industry continues to grow, and some predict that growth increase by 63% by 2018.
  • Patient-to-Patient Delivery: Recently, another tech-based innovation has been a host of health tracking and maintenance websites which promote wellness and treatment, an initiative begun by the individual but which relies on communication among people who have or have had similar conditions, symptoms, and health issues. One such site is Track My Stack where members set up their own treatment plans (stacks), monitor them, and modify those plans based upon scientific reports on illnesses, chronic conditions, symptoms, experiences of other users, and reports on the efficacy of supplements for specific conditions. The patient is in total control through these plans and relies on research and experiences to develop treatment goals.
  • Wellness Technology: Wearables are increasingly being used and becoming more sophisticated, monitoring not just what is going on inside the body but the environmental conditions which can also impact health.
Alternative Medicines

Alternative medicine is a huge industry. From supplements to acupuncture, consumers are looking for alternatives to pharmaceuticals pushed on them by traditional medical care and by the deluge of TV and Internet marketing of every new drug that hits the market. And some scientific research is now beginning to report on the efficacy of natural supplements for a number of acute and chronic conditions. Just relative to marijuana, the benefits for patients with glaucoma, cancer, and epilepsy are now well documented. Continued research may indeed demonstrate that the ancients had many answers with natural medicines that we have ignored.

The Search for Superhuman Brain Power

This past season, a TV series called Limitless explored the possibility that medical science could develop a drug that would so enhance cognitive power as to make someone a genius. While we are certainly not there yet, there is lots of informal and non-scientific research in this area and a new class of drugs called Nootronics, often called "Smart Drugs." While they do not make geniuses, they do show promise in enhancing memory and boosting focus and motivation. While the best of these are not available without a prescription, many of them are OTC (over-the-counter) for recreational use. The nootropic industry in 2015, for example, had gross sales of over $1 billion, consumer being students, career professionals who needed to remain alert for long hours, and even spouses and children of the elderly with dementia and

Alzheimer's.

The original nootropics are caffeine and L-theanine, an element found in green tea. And most nootropics beyond caffeine are not controlled in any way and perfectly legal to purchase. There are others that are prescription-based because they contain dopamine reuptake inhibitors, and those are FDA controlled substances. Even these, however, like Modafinil, are purchased illegally online, especially by students.

Conclusion

This post has covered a lot of medical innovations and disruptions. While they may seem disjointed and unrelated, they all point to a major trend in health care for the future. Younger generations are not going to stand for the traditional health care system that we have today. They want cheaper better care, and they want real participation in and control over their own health care. Further, they are looking for alternatives to the drugs that are being touted and pushed by big pharma, an industry they see as motivated only by profit. And technology will help them in their quests.

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