The medical field is undergoing a period of technological change, and that change is spilling over to affect health insurance as well. The combination of regulations designed to promote cost-saving innovation and new software tools all add up to some interesting new ideas in health care. Whenever those ideas succeed in making people healthier and safer, they also tend to make health insurance cheaper, because insurance companies reward customers who are healthier with lower rates. That can open up big savings for Texas residents looking to save money on health insurance.
It is becoming more and more common for health insurance companies to offer incentives for customers who engage in certain kinds of healthy behavior. For example, there is frequently a discount for signing up for a gym or similar health service. That is an indication to the insurance carrier that you plan to improve your health. Regular exercise does a lot for overall physical and mental health, reducing the probability that you will make a claim. Generally, the savings are enough to offset the cost of the gym membership, so it is like getting the membership for free. Call up your insurance company and ask them if there are any similar incentives available to you.
That is just one example of health incentives. However, insurance companies do not really have any way of tracking whether you actually use the gym. If all they know is that you bought a membership, they can’t be sure you are regularly using it and improving your health. That goes for just about any health incentive insurance companies offer: they are frequently difficult to verify. Ideally, health insurers would like to track the health of their customers directly.
The rise of electronic medical records and personal fitness trackers might make that possible. There are many products that track individuals’ performance across a wide variety of exercises, like Fitbit’s line of wearable items. They contain massive amounts of data about personal records and vital signs, and they store that data for easy access. At the same time, care providers are investing heavily in developing large, comprehensive systems for storing health information. The ideal system would be able to track as much information as possible, from test results to past care experiences. There are already discussions about ways to unify these two concepts- personal electronics and medical databases. The possibilities are exciting. Consider a wearable fitness device that automatically records information about the health and strength of its wearer and then adds that information to the wearer’s medical records. That would mean that physicians could track physical health and collect data without needing the patient to come in for a checkup. Scales could transmit weight data to medical records. Much of the business of collecting basic data like blood pressure, balance, and heart health could be collected quickly and easily during regular workouts. This would not only save everyone a lot of time, it would also let doctors monitor their patients with better detail than they ever could before. That better data will translate into better, more responsive care. Improved care and health outcomes will reduce health insurance costs in Texas.
The basic idea is similar to telematics in auto insurance, and it is just as potentially transformative. Having better access to health signs will be a major boost to the ability to doctors to detect and monitor disease. Likewise, insurance companies will be able to verify that customers are really becoming more healthy and reward them with savings on their premiums.