Technology continues to reshape how people navigate the health system. It helps put access to information at our fingertips and creates a more seamless and interactive experience. At the same time, these advances may help us become savvier users of health care, because they can help simplify and personalize each of our individual health journeys.
This can be important to remember during this fall's open enrollment season, when millions of Americans select or switch their health benefits for 2020.
With that in mind, here are three ways technology might help you along your journey toward health and enable you to maximize the value of your health plan.
Walk Your Way to Improved Health and Savings: A growing number of people are using wearable devices to more accurately understand their daily activity levels, while an estimated 35 percent of employers now integrate this technology into their wellbeing programs. As these devices become more common, there may be opportunities for you to develop healthier habits and earn financial rewards through your health plan. For instance, some wearable device wellbeing programs may enable people to earn more than $1,000 per year by meeting certain daily walking goals. Likewise, websites such as myachievement.com enable people to earn cash rewards for walking.
Select the Setting for Care: Technology is making it easier for us to connect with a health care provider. In some cases, a virtual care visit on a smartphone, tablet or computer may be a more affordable and convenient option than a traditional doctor’s office or urgent care visit to treat various nonemergency medical conditions, including allergies, flu, colds, pinkeye, fevers and rashes. In fact, comparing care options could save $1,500 or more per treatment. Families could save $4.4 billion annually by choosing an urgent care, a doctor’s office or a virtual environment – depending on the medical issue – instead of an emergency room visit when seeking care that’s not life-threatening, according to the National Institutes of Health. Keep in mind that sometimes a visit to an emergency room is necessary in the event of a significant or serious medical issue such as persistent chest pains, broken bones and head or eye injuries.
Learn to Comparison Shop: More than one-third (37 percent) of Americans say they have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to comparison shop for health care, up from 14 percent in 2012, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey. There are public websites that enable people to access market averages for hundreds of health care costs, while some health plans provide online and mobile resources that offer customized estimates based on actual contracted rates with health care providers and facilities. Health care quality and cost vary widely within a city or neighborhood, so comparison shopping may yield lower out-of-pocket medical costs.
For millions of Americans, the new UnitedHealthcare app provides a single source to help people maintain and improve their well-being, access care and make the most out of their health benefits. Eligible plan participants can now use the app to directly schedule and conduct a Virtual Visit with a doctor, comparison shop for care based on quality and cost for more than 800 medical services, andemail their health plan ID card to their physician office or hospital.*
The app is available now for download at no additional charge for Android and Apple devices to more than 27 million people enrolled in UnitedHealthcare employer-sponsored and individual benefit plans.
*Additional out-of-pocket costs may be required for telemedicine services depending on the plan and any applicable state requirements.