The Future of Preventive Care Is PromisingAugust 23, 2021
The challenges of the pandemic have—and continue to—impact nearly every area of healthcare. COVID-19 quickened the pace of trends that were already in motion and brought new changes to the way we take care of ourselves. Preventive care especially is changing as technology advances and the demands of patients shift.
What is preventive care?
Preventive care centers on preventing health problems or catching them early when they are easier to treat. Examples include annual checkups, flu shots, and immunizations. Preventive care services are covered at 100% by most health plans.
Prevention works best when it goes beyond doctor visits to work with your daily routine. For example, diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management can all help fight disease and chronic conditions. Studies even show that having a positive social network of family, friends, and peers can support a healthy lifestyle and lower blood pressure.
So, what is changing in preventive care and what will we see in the future?
Stay-at-home orders and safety measures during the pandemic created a greater need for digital tools. Technology rose to the challenge, including:
- apps and wearables
- virtual doctor visits
- more at-home testing options.
Having the data foundation already in place pre-pandemic allowed many healthcare providers to mobilize quickly and push these tools further. Their data-driven insights were more important than ever in combatting COVID-19.
As patients look for ways to track their activity and share their health data with doctors, the demand for wearables is expected to increase. Wearable technology encourages actions that can improve overall health. And 75% of wearable users say they help them engage with their own health.
Wearables include Fitbits, smartwatches, EKG monitors, and blood pressure monitors. They can:
- send health information to your doctor in real time
- track your daily fitness
- measure an electrocardiogram and send the reading to your doctor
- detect atrial fibrillation
- measure blood pressure
Health and fitness apps
Research shows the number of health and fitness app users will stay above 84 million through 2022. The Sydney Health app is one example. It allows Anthem members:
- access to their ID cards
- benefits and claims information
- tools to find in-network doctors
- interactive chat features
Apps like Sydney Health will continue to evolve with innovations in artificial intelligence (AI). For example, AI can help with staying on time with check-ups, scheduling tests, and other health activities as apps become smarter and more personalized.
Virtual doctor visits
Online healthcare delivery was a major lesson patients and doctors learned in the pandemic. Virtual care, also known as telemedicine, is one of the fastest-growing areas in healthcare. With apps and web-based tools, patients can access doctors through their mobile device or computer.
More patients are using virtual care and growing more comfortable with it. But studies show a patient's preference for virtual care depends on the type of visit. A June 2021 study found that 83% of patients would rather see their doctor in-person for their annual preventive exams. Doctor’s offices are now offering both virtual and in-person care options. This will improve consumer experience, access, outcomes, and affordability.
Anthem members have access to virtual doctor visits through LiveHealth Online. Members can enroll for free at livehealthonline.com or on the mobile app. For emergency situations, you should always dial 911 or seek immediate, in-person medical treatment.
At-home testing kits
In 2020, as consumers minimized trips to doctor’s offices to reduce the spread of COVID-19, at-home testing kits became more popular. They offer a convenient way to stay up to date on screenings and get diagnostic tests without going into a lab or doctor’s office. Post-pandemic, they remain popular and offer test results for even more conditions.
Fecal immunochemical tests (FITs), for example, are home tests that screen for colon cancer without a colonoscopy. This development is important because the CDC reports that millions of Americans are not getting their recommended colon cancer screening. And colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.
At-home testing kits are also a convenient option for those who are home-bound. However, the FDA warns that while home testing kits are beneficial, they are not for every case. They should be used with caution, and should not replace all in-person visits with your doctor.
Since every individual has a different healthcare journey, personalized technology continues to advance. We have more care delivery options and tools than ever that can help improve preventive care. And when all this technology and data works together, people can achieve better whole health.