Many of our elder clients have been asking us in recent months: what can I expect in terms of healthcare over the next few years? This is a tough question because of the many dynamics associated Medicaid and other benefit programs. Further complicating matters are the ongoing problems with the Vermont Health Connect, which continues to fall incredibly short in what it delivers. Vermont was one of just 14 states that opted to design and build its own website and health care exchange.
Initially, the holdup had more to do with the nation watching for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether the law was even constitutional. More recently, we’ve learned that Governor Shumlin’s first choice for providing the state exchange, Oracle, was dropped for a lack of any kind of substantial progress. A new company was hired and the costs continue to climb in that aspect of the brouhaha.
But what does all of this mean in the here and now? How do our seniors ensure they’re receiving quality healthcare without unexpected and unfair costs? You might be surprised to learn that some illnesses may not even require a trip to an overfilled doctor’s lobby for a two hour wait. In fact, you don’t even have to put your shoes on.
Demand for doctors is at an all-time high and while that’s not entirely unexpected (there are more Americans signing up for health insurance these days), what is surprising is that 10 million Americans are already bypassing the traditional options. They’re simply touching their phone apps or logging into their video teleconferencing program on their computers. Maybe the most overlooked truth is that the demand for doctors isn’t necessarily consumers who are feeling the heat – but rather, the shortage could be the government’s worries as more doctors are pulling out of ACA and going to a cash-only business model.
It makes sense in a lot of ways – provided they stay within the parameters of how the service should work. In fact, the benefits of bypassing the physical office visit are being felt around the country. Imagine being able to continue to use your trusted physician again, even though you’ve moved across the country to live with your adult children. Many who are using telemedicine are realizing the advantages of a high-tech health solution.
This also means that more doctors are becoming licensed in multiple states. It’s expensive, but the fact that these numbers are soaring speaks volumes about the way doctors hope to see their practices evolve – and also their hopes for quality care for all of their patients.
It’s not the cure-all by any stretch of the imagination. Imagine being able to log in to Skype or another program, seeing the doctor appear within moments and after speaking with you, calling in a prescription for the sinus infection. And consider the fact that this can all be done within 20 minutes. Most of us are in a waiting room far longer than that – and that’s after we’ve dressed, showed up in that overfilled waiting room only to find ourselves waiting again in the exam room.
And if you care for an elderly parent, consider the benefits telemedicine could provide, including the fact that you may be able to limit time off from work when a doctor is able to see his elderly patient online versus in person. If your parent or loved one is frail or is unable to stand or walk or just feels too bad to leave the house, having the doctor consult with you and the patient via video chat could eliminate those worries.
So far, the pricing seems reasonable, but there are a lot of dynamics and moving parts. Will this replace Medicaid or even Medicare? Maybe it will even work in tandem with these two important programs? That’s yet to be seen. But for those worried about healthcare in the U.S., it just might be the only light at the end of the tunnel.