When health care and technology collide

By Don Antonucci, President, Regence BlueShield
August 25, 2015

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report is required reading if you’re a tech professional but there are also some great insights into how technology and consumer behavior intersect and impact the way people experience the health care system. The trend report shows industries with the biggest opportunity to benefit, and it’s no surprise that health care makes the list. Yet year after year the industry as a whole lags behind as a late technology adopter.

With increasing consumer focus on health care, our industry needs technology more than ever. There continues to be a shift in the way people access, search for, and purchase health care services. Some key trends in Meeker’s report that I found impactful include:

  1. Increase in consumer spending on health care: Most people expect housing, transportation, and groceries to top the list. However, this year health care was in the top 5 and we saw consumer spending increase to 11% of total family income – up 7% over the last 24 months. This is due to the rising cost for procedures, office visits, and medications. With consumers sharing more of the cost burden, people are looking for lower cost care options and transparency tools to help them navigate.
  2. Consumer behavior and shopping habits: Meeker reports that roughly 31% of consumers now shop for and compare health and wellness products and services as they would an electronics purchase -- online. In response, technology companies are building intuitive mobile medical apps or devices that track health progress, help monitor an ageing loved one, and can help facilitate patient recovery and rehabilitation so it can occur closer to home. Consumers are looking to the industry to provide them the tools which will allow them to take charge of their health in partnership with their physicians.
  3. Consumers are now spending more time on mobile devices and smartphones than desktops or even laptops and are looking for the health care system to adapt to their mobile lifestyle: For example, FDA regulators cleared twenty-four consumer digital health devices and more devices await clearance in 2015. We've been investing in technology over the last few years with a focus on advancing our technology-enabled solutions for the consumer. Products we’ve launched and invested in include; HealthSparq which provide cost and quality transparency tools or Wellero; a mobile app helping members access and understand their benefits, pay their doctor using their HSA account, and review their claim history.

As technology in health care becomes ubiquitous, physicians, and customers alike will demand it to be integrated into their overall health care experience. Regence is dedicated to making this transition alongside them and even more importantly, for them.