Rapid advances in technology from robotics and artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things connecting mobile devices are transforming traditional health care delivery.
This evolution will be as dramatic as the one that began in the 1980s and saw patients moved out of hospitals and into their homes for the management of chronic diseases. That shift also saw the growth of out-patient clinics for post operative follow up and other minor procedures. The shift provided the momentum for modernization of healthcare delivery. It refocused the efforts of nurses, doctors and technicians and the technology they used to provide care.
The next shift has started and will be as significant:
- Virtual visits by doctors and nurses will become more common and may replace some in-person visits;
- The patient experience will improve as access to services becomes more coordinated;
- Technology with produce cost savings;
- Doctor-patient communication will improve to help coordinate care more efficiently.
The catalyst is the continuous digitization of patient information, diagnostic images and symptom assessment which can be more easily shared and coordinated. Patient advocacy groups and healthcare companies are encouraging the development of apps to help. As physicians, nurses and other stakeholders test and approve them, the apps will find their way into the hands of consumers.
UnitedHealth Group Inc., (NYSE: UNH) a Minnesota-based managed health care company is an example of this evolution. UnitedHealth is the 5th largest American company by revenue in the Fortune 500 rankings. It offers health care products and healthcare insurance.
UnitedHealth had a market capitalization of US $237 billion as of Dec. 31, 2018. For the 12 months to Sept. 30, 2018 revenues were US $220 billion and net income was $12.5 billion. The $3.60 dividend yields 1.5 per cent at current prices.
United Healthcare offers an assortment of online and mobile tools giving employees access to health information and incentives for wellness. The incentives include such simple things as fitness trackers which let employees earn up to $4 a day by meeting walking goals. It makes coaches available and uses apps to encourage weight loss.
Other initiatives include:
- Virtual doctor which lets employees consult with their doctor by phone, tablet or computer;
- An app to access health plan details from a mobile device;
- The Rally app which tracks personal health and earns rewards;
- 24-hour nurse which allows access to a nurse any time;
- A mobile pregnancy monitoring app;
- The activity app that lets trackers earn almost $1,500 per year in credits.
UnitedHealthcare is a good example of how advances in technology combined with the Internet of Things which connects mobile devices are changing traditional health care.