It doesn’t take long for new technological advances to hit the medical world. 3-D printing, wearable technology, robots and genomic testing are starting to impact the way you access and use your health care benefits.
By now, most of us have heard of 3-D printers. They can print in three dimensions, in successive layers. Today, 3-D printers can utilize plastics, gold, silver, wax, and even food. So what does this mean for health care? Medical scientists have figured out how to print knee implants, scoliosis spinal braces, and even create 3-D models of at-risk fetuses to determine before they are born if treatment is needed. The machines are relatively inexpensive, and printing can be done at a very fast pace, which would ultimately save businesses money on benefit plans. What can you expect next? Scientists are working on a way to print using human cells. This means down the road, we could be using 3-D printers to replace kidneys, livers and even hearts, all from your own cells.
Many technology companies today create wearable tech such as smart watches and activity trackers. Now, they’re expanding these concepts into the medical field to include health monitoring. Whether you’re wearing a FitBit or the new biometric clothing, they’re designed to track your health. Wearable tech pajamas have even been developed to monitor a baby’s vital signs. Many businesses are investing in wearable health initiatives. By wearing these devices that record eating and physical behaviors, employees are encouraged to develop healthier diet and exercise habits. Furthermore, wearable technology is in the works that will accurately monitor health indicators such as blood pressure, blood oxygen levels and glucose levels. With real-time data, wearable tech users will be able to better gauge when to seek emergency medical services and when to take corrective action at home. Businesses can avoid the cost of an unnecessary emergency room visit, the insurance company saves money and the customer dodges stress and high medical bills. So what’s the catch? Remembering to wear them and charge them.
While robots aren’t taking over in operating rooms, they definitely are a known presence. Robotic assisted surgery mostly consists of a camera arm and mechanical arms with surgical instruments attached to them. The surgeon sits at a nearby HD computer, sees a magnified view of the surgical site, and controls the robotic arms accordingly. This relatively new development allows doctors to focus on more critical aspects of the procedure, and makes surgeries minimally invasive. While robotic assisted surgery costs more than traditional surgery, it can save money overall because of fewer complications, less blood loss, shorter hospital stays, less post-op pain medication, and quicker recovery time. Robotic advances have been great for health benefits, and scientists are developing new ways that robotic surgical arms can surpass the limitations of human hand movement. But robotic surgery is not without risk. Training requirements vary by hospital. Before consenting to robotic assisted surgery, make sure your surgeon explains alternative surgical and post-op scenarios.
What would you do if you could learn your chances of developing a disease, before you even experience any symptoms? Genetic testing uses methods in the lab to look at your genes, which contain the DNA you inherited from your parents. Many tests can help to diagnose diseases, identify gene changes that could be passed on to children, and even identify gene changes that may increase your risk of developing a disease. While this can be very beneficial when it comes to preventive measures, it can also take an emotional toll. A woman may discover she has a mutation that could lead to breast cancer. She then has to decide if the risk is great enough to warrant a double mastectomy. While this type of testing can be life saving, it is important to weigh the emotional risks, as well.
The role of technology in health care is continually evolving, but it’s beneficial to understand where it is now and how it’s impacting businesses. Technology is saving businesses time and money when it comes to their employees, health benefits and plans. After all, healthier employees save businesses money.
For 40 years, McGohan Brabender has been simplifying the delivery of health benefits by managing risk and reducing costs. We are passionate about what we do and have the tools and experience to guide you through the chaos of health benefits management.