Rising healthcare costs are taking their toll on American patients. Half of adults say they or a loved one skipped or delayed treatment in the past year due to cost concerns, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. About a quarter say they or a family member has struggled to pay medical bills.
This can’t go on. We need to find ways to lower the overall cost of care and help patients afford the procedures and prescriptions they need.
Fortunately, innovative businesses are working to solve this problem. By competing with entrenched incumbents and with each other, upstart firms are helping drive down costs and deliver quality care more efficiently.
Patients are spending more and more money on health care. Last year, folks who stayed overnight in the hospital saw their out-of-pocket costs spike 14 percent, according to an analysis by TransUnion Healthcare. For patients who needed same-day procedures, out-of-pocket costs rose 12 percent. Emergency department visits became 7 percent more expensive.
Why are costs surging? Well, hospital systems have increasingly consolidated in recent years. And they’ve bought up many formerly independent doctor practices. As a result, quasi-monopolistic providers can demand ever higher prices from insurers, employers, and patients.
Some local companies are taking on these bloated incumbents. Consider Remedy, which delivers urgent and primary medical care to patients in the comfort of their own homes.
Once a patient orders a house call from the company’s site, a board-certified physician, physician assistant, or advanced practice nurse shows up at the door within two hours. Remedy medical staff answer video calls from patients within 15 minutes. These professionals provide everything from stitches and splints to prescription refills and lab tests.
Remedy gives patients with relatively minor injuries a safe, affordable alternative to the ER. House calls cost $200 without insurance. The average emergency room visit costs over 10 times as much, according to a recent claims data analysis from UnitedHealth Group.
Millions of Americans could benefit from such innovations. Right now, more than seven in ten ER visits don’t actually require emergency room treatment.
DispatchHealth offers a similar service. The firm provides urgent care house calls for a price that’s 80 to 90 percent less than the cost of most ER visits. The convenience factor is a top attraction. “I will definitely call them again before ever dragging myself out of the house again,” said a recent customer.
My own company, Healthcare Highways, is rethinking how employers provide coverage to their employees. We work with doctors, hospitals, and insurers to provide customized, value-based healthcare options. Our plans illuminate cost drivers and help coordinate care — which enables businesses and their employees to sustain savings.
For too long, patients have paid the price — with their money and their health — for America’s outdated and inefficient healthcare delivery system. It’s time to find new ways to provide better value in health care.
Michael Wilson is the CEO of Healthcare Highways.