The connected care evolution: how globally mobile employees can benefit
One of the most complicated parts of moving abroad is knowing how to navigate a new healthcare system to ensure the best health outcomes for you and your family. Whether you’re trying to keep yourself fit and well, manage an ongoing condition or get help in a medical emergency, how do you get quality care when and where you need it? And how do you find advice, support and care that’s based on a holistic view of your health, wellness and circumstances?
For expats on assignment, the inability to find the right health care and support in their host country can pose a real threat to their wellbeing, happiness and new life.
However, the burgeoning health evolution is embracing predictive, preventative, personalised and participative care and advances in technology. As such, globally mobile employees and their families are having less trouble getting help to keep well and the care they need when they do fall ill. At Aetna International, we are embracing the health care evolution and new technology in an approach we call ‘connected care’.
A better approach to optimum health
In a nutshell, connected care means integrated care – connecting the dots between the patient, the healthcare provider and the payer. It’s making sure that doctors have all the information they need to provide the best evidence-based care, that patients have the information and support they need to follow their care plan and that payers know what procedures are being provided. And that it’s all medically appropriate.
It’s also about connecting physical health, mental health, emotional health and financial health in a seamless, holistic way. There may be some emotional or work/life balance issues that need to be dealt with, or social services that need to be brought in so that everyone is working toward the best outcome for the person.
Understanding how social and environmental factors (also known as the social determinants of health) affect health and wellness is also key. The paper, Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants in Promoting Health and Health Equity (2018) showed that healthcare delivery only has a 10 per cent impact on a person’s health and how long they live, and up to 30 per cent comes from genetic influences. But individual behaviours such as smoking and how healthy and fit people keep themselves contribute 40 per cent, with the remaining 20 per cent being related to socio-environmental factors such as financial stability, neighbourhood, physical environment, family and education.
“To help people live healthier, more productive lives, we need to move away from just focusing on physical care and look at the whole equation,” says Karen Weinseiss, Aetna International’s vice president of health care management. “The biggest piece really comes down to the choices that each of us makes every day to live a healthier life.”
How employees benefit from connected care
In fractured healthcare systems where one doctor doesn’t talk to another doctor, tests and services are often unnecessarily repeated – and there may even be conflicts such as when one prescribed medication interferes with another. There can be gaps in care or people hospitalised for longer than they should be.
With connected care, preventive health is a key component. The earlier that problems are identified and addressed, the less likely it is that they will become catastrophic. Connected care means analysing a lot of data, identifying trends and being able to flag potential problems. Healthcare insurers that are immersed in that work can see things doctors can’t always see, such as when a patient is visiting several specialists, and give this information to doctors to help them intervene earlier.
The impact on employers, healthcare systems and society
Employers want to have productive, healthy workforces. When employees are getting the right care at the right time, they return to work sooner and are happier and more productive. A more efficient healthcare system yields a much more productive society overall.
Many governments across the world are straining under escalating costs of care. A lot of it has to do with the increase in chronic health conditions and ageing populations. So when you connect the dots along the way and identify problematic trends, you wind up eliminating some of the inefficiencies in the system. That’s great from a cost savings perspective, but it’s also great for people’s health. It helps avoid gaps in care and keeps people from being in hospital for longer than necessary.
Employees becoming active health care ‘consumers’
Patients are recipients of care, whereas healthcare consumers are active participants in their care. That means they want to know why things are occurring, what they need to be doing about it, and how they can contribute to making themselves as healthy as possible.
Connected care can improve people’s healthspan – number of years lived free from disease – by understanding their underlying needs. For example, let’s say someone has a chronic health condition they’re not managing well. For any outreach to be effective, there needs to be understanding of what’s driving the problem. Maybe it’s a mother who doesn’t have time to take care of herself because she has a sick child who also has some underlying condition. Once that’s understood, people who are part of a connected care system can help the mother get care for her child so that she can then take better care of herself.
The role of technology
Technology addresses care access issues by making it much easier to get care in the first place. The growing use of virtual health services gives people access to a doctor any time of day or night using their mobile device – a particularly vital option for expatriates and other globally mobile employees. In a connected care model, information flows easily from the care provider in the home country to doctors in the destination country. That alone can make a big difference for people who are often far away from their friends and family support network.
Technology also brings greater convenience through text message reminders, online self-help resources and data analysis that identifies people at risk of developing a disease or having trouble managing an existing disease.
Moving toward a better healthcare system
The traditional healthcare system is primarily focused on sick care, addressing problems as they occur. It’s also a very fractured environment where one doctor or hospital may not provide information to another.
In a connected care system, focusing on the preventive side of the equation fends off bigger problems that can come down the road. Technology is revolutionising the way care will be delivered – making it a whole lot easier for anyone with a mobile device to get connected to the care that they need.
This article was provided by Aetna International.
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