A New Major Player in Healthcare: The Growing Role of Silicon Valley

Online MHA students should pay close attention to the growing role of Silicon Valley in healthcare. Tech investors have already injected millions of dollars into Clover Health, a California-based insurance startup aimed at using data to keep customers healthy. This is just one signal of what’s to come.

Explore further advances in Silicon Valley’s role in the healthcare industry.

The Move to High-Tech Primary Health Providers

Silicon Valley has introduced a futuristic doctor’s office called “Forward” that, according to Business Insider, looks “like an Apple Store meets ‘Westworld.’ “Various technologies and funding sources have ventured into new types of precision healthcare.

Forward utilizes artificial intelligence and a network of world-class doctors to create a personalized plan built from a patient’s data and devices. The process involves real-time blood testing, DNA sequencing, and a high-tech body scanner to provide a more accurate overall picture of health. Through the app, patients now have 24/7 access to doctors, nurses, health data, and test results.

The concept is being hailed as “the doctor’s office of the future,” free from health insurance, co-pays, and excessive fees. Patients pay a set rate of $149 per month for access to a private doctor, ongoing monitoring, primary care, common vaccines, and other benefits.

Given Silicon Valley’s push to create a completely new healthcare concept, it’s too soon to tell how effective ideas like Forward will become, especially in areas that are not as high-tech as the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Even so, Forward is offering a glimpse of the future in healthcare, and aspiring healthcare administrators and managers should examine its implications.

Embracing Direct-Care Practices

Forward, albeit the most high-tech concept currently established, is just one of the growing number of direct primary care facilities in the United States. Pediatricians, internists, and family-medicine physicians are slowly but increasingly making the switch to direct primary care, which is a segment of healthcare that doesn’t accept insurance. Instead, direct-care practices charge monthly membership fees to provide the average patient with basic healthcare needs, including doctor’s visits, lab tests, and prescription drugs at lower prices.

The direct primary care model has gained ground in recent years due to the increase of high-deductible health plans. A patient might normally have to pay $2,000 out of pocket for healthcare before insurance applies. It can be helpful to him or her to instead pay a monthly $50 to $70 direct-care membership fee.

Since direct-care practices don’t have to deal with insurance, they’re not bound by the same regulations and can more easily experiment with newer healthcare technologies. Direct-care providers can be accessible via phone, text, or email, and can even provide services after hours or on weekends. Direct-care patients may also have access to counseling and educational services.

With Silicon Valley’s involvement in direct-care practices like Forward, it’s possible that more practitioners will move towards a direct-care model to better serve their communities.

Using Technology to Solve Socially Significant Problems

One of Silicon Valley’s biggest healthcare projects to date is Clover Health, an insurance startup that utilizes data to keep patients healthy. The San Francisco-based company has 235 employees who enjoy the benefits of an exceptional workspace, which includes a dedicated meditation room, snack wall, catered lunches, and comfortable beanbag chairs. It’s certainly not like any insurance company that’s existed up until now.

As an insurance provider, Clover pays its members’ medical bills and develops an evolving health profile of each member. Currently, the system is being beta tested in New Jersey among Medicare Advantage customers while Clover Health builds its so-called “learning machine.” The overarching goal is to one day use Clover’s gathered knowledge to create a better healthcare system for everyone.

Another example of a technology-focused health insurance company is Oscar Health, which is headquartered in New York City. Oscar has been challenging major insurers like Aetna and Anthem Blue Cross, but continues to face challenges due to its smaller size. As more investors and entrepreneurs back tech-focused insurance companies, there will be more competition in the insurance industry, which may be part of a revolution in healthcare.

Aiming for Progress, Not Reform

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs distinguish themselves from other healthcare reformers by calling for progress, not just reform. Many feel that the efforts to reform the Affordable Care Act right now do not improve upon the original. Healthcare advocates say that “reform” in its current form simply takes away services and protections from Americans. Instead, they are calling for changes that enhance healthcare coverage.

Silicon Valley prides itself on the ability to introduce new products with better features at a lower cost that can be used by millions. The idea is that the approach to healthcare should be the same. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like Rich Boberg, co-founder of Innovation Quest, and Charlie Simmons, former VP of Corporate Development for NetApp, are calling for a more innovative, efficient system that works to correct problems, ensuring that more people have access to better, less expensive healthcare. They believe that progress should focus on overall improvement and not just tax cuts.

The Rise of mHealth

Mobile health, or mHealth as it’s known in the medical field, refers to the use of mobile devices and other types of wireless technology in medical care. Most mHealth entrepreneurs tend to be new to the healthcare industry, and as such, it’s unlikely that they will change the face of healthcare on their own.

Healthcare providers and administrators will need to get behind mobile-enabled hospital information systems and doctor-to-patient communications to keep pace with the industry. As the healthcare administrators of tomorrow, it’s important for current students and new graduates to research Silicon Valley’s ongoing role in shaping healthcare technologies. Doing so may mean better access to information for both patients and providers, and may result in more efficient, less expensive healthcare.

Does the thought of a high-tech future in healthcare excite you? Get the education that can help you take an active part in the inevitable transition. Learn more about the Executive Master of Health Administration online degree program at University of Southern California.







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