How To Become an Expert in Your Own Health and Healthcare Experience

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Consumer-driven disruption in healthcare is going into overdrive — here’s what patients are doing to gain more control over their health.

As emerging technologies continue to place more and more power in the hands of the consumer, healthcare is undergoing a massive transformation. Patients now have more control over their personal health and healthcare experiences than ever before. Here are a few of the key trends that are currently reshaping the medical landscape.

Online Comparison Shopping

It’s no secret that consumers rely heavily on the internet when researching healthcare information; however, consumers are now employing the same comparative shopping tactics they use to purchase products when seeking out healthcare providers and treatment options. In fact, a 2015 study conducted by Public Agenda suggests that 56% of Americans researched prices before booking an appointment or procedure, and 21% actively comparison shop for healthcare services.

In large part, this trend comes as a result of soaring insurance premiums and deductibles — consumers are increasingly motivated to find new ways to keep their out-of-pocket costs under control, and new services are emerging as a result. For example, companies like SingleCare and SaveOnMedical allow patients in select states to compare prices for various procedures and providers online, and to prepay in cash and book appointments directly on their websites.

Online Communities

But today, patients are no longer only relying on search engines when conducting research on a given condition — many are turning to social media and online communities for health-related information, support, and guidance. Today, 20% of the all patients online join social media forums or healthcare communities. More than 25% of users with chronic conditions use social media to find other people with similar health problems, and a full 40% say that they rely on the information and advice they receive on these platforms when making decisions about their treatment.

Access to Healthcare Data

The widespread adoption of cloud technologies have spurred a shift in patient expectations regarding access and control over personal healthcare data.

According to a recent Accenture survey, 69% of participants felt they have a right to access all of their healthcare data. Moreover, 87% of those surveyed with chronic conditions (1,093) and 86% of those listed as “well” (918) said that having control over their health records was either “important” or “very important.”

Despite a marked push by the industry to adopt EHR technologies and improve patient access, it seems we still have a long way to go — only 17% of chronically ill respondents and 16% of healthy respondents felt they actually had “complete control” over their healthcare information.

Wearables & mHealth

Over the past few years, the widespread adoption of fitness trackers and wearable technologies has been one of the fastest growing trends in healthcare. According to the NIH, a full 15% of U.S. consumers own at least one wearable device, such as a FitBit or an Apple Watch. In 2016, more than 19 million devices were sold, and experts predict that number will rise to 110 million by 2018.

But these devices aren’t just helping people make healthier lifestyle choices — many patients are using them to more effectively manage their chronic conditions and gain more control over and insight into their health. Moreover, physicians are recognizing the technology’s potential not only to reduce the cost/burden of care through remote patient monitoring, but also the accuracy of diagnosis. In fact, some practices are emerging that are entirely centered around wearable technologies and sensors.

At the end of the day, the balance of control is shifting in favor of the healthcare consumer — medical providers need to adapt their practices to account for this emerging trend, or risk losing out to their competitors.

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