How the Gig Economy Can Help Solve America’s Growing Health Care Problems

How the Gig Economy Can Help Solve America’s Growing Health Care Problems
May 31 09:00 2017

In the age of the digital revolution, no industry is immune to disruption. And the growing ranks participating in the gig economy include lots of in-demand talent that offers specialized skills and knowledge.

In considering freelancers and outsource talent as opportunities, symbiotic relationships between established organizations and budding tech platforms are emerging to address–and potentially solve–some industry issues that have been plaguing them for years.

For example: the health care industry.

Unpaid medical bills are the number one cause of personal bankruptcies in America, affecting over two million people each year. In 2015, nearly one in four non-elderly American adults had medical debt. Knowing they may be hit with high bills they may not be able to pay means many people stay away from doctor visits and treatment.

According to a recent study by Merritt Hawkins, the average wait time for a family medicine doctor appointment in 2017 is 109 days in Boston, 42 days in Los Angeles, and 27 days in Atlanta. That’s a 30 percent increase since 2014, with an average wait time of 24 days to schedule a new patient appointment in 15 of the major cities in the U.S.

Considering that a significant portion of the population will enter retirement in the coming years, viable alternatives to traditional healthcare delivery are more important than ever. Americans need access to affordable, convenient healthcare providers and resources.

One reason we see an increased focus on innovative care management is that the United States continues to tie financial reimbursements more closely to health outcomes that are reported by hospitals. It is in the healthcare providers’ best interest to make sure their patients are adopting certain practices, but they aren’t always able to meet with patients to assist them in their home.

The Prescription of the Gig Economy

This is where the gig economy can play a viable role in addressing these gaps in quality, affordable healthcare. In fact, it has the potential of offering a network of on-demand professionals managed and deployed with centralized technology.

Telemedicine is one niche area with considerable potential. Once upon a time, it was known as a house call. In the early 1900s, physicians typically traveled to their patients’ homes for appointments.

Over a century later, the trend is back in digital form. Startup companies like American Well and Doctor on Demand have realized the potential to facilitate on-demand health care for clients in home and the workplace.

While patients still have the option to see a physician in-person, they can also schedule virtual appointments. With telemedicine, patients can speak with a physician immediately by phone or video conference rather than having to wait for hours at urgent care or the emergency room. In some cases, a person can even receive a diagnosis on the spot, with a prescription immediately transferred to a local pharmacy.

Bringing Healthcare to Those in Need

While the ability for patients to speak with physicians instantly is an incredible application of the digital tools at our disposal, it isn’t the only way to improve healthcare delivery in the United States. Sometimes patients who are in recovery at home struggle to manage their care properly, particularly when they live in rural areas or away from family members who can help.

WeGoLook provides on-demand field agents called ‘Lookers.’ They can be supplemental caregivers for patients who have a chronic illness, are elderly, or have just gone through major surgery. While family members aren’t always available to assist due to geography or time restrictions, there are always Lookers available.

They meet with patients and set them up on devices that will monitor their physical activity, pulse, blood pressure, and weight. Those devices sync with a smartphone app that can be accessed by the patient, the patient’s family members, and their care providers. Partnerships like these can help provide family members with peace of mind and increase the likelihood of positive health outcomes.

The Future of Healthcare

As more gig economy partnerships emerge in the healthcare industry, it’s likely that the cost of in-home health consultations will decrease while another segment of talent will enjoy a new level of flexibility and convenience in their careers.

In the future, healthcare providers will be able to complete an entire patient consultation without requiring the overhead of an office or administrative staff. Although the road to a full recovery is a long one, the gig economy has already provided welcome relief from the troubling symptoms faced by the healthcare industry and those in need of quality, affordable care. Rest assured, a cure for healthcare is in the works…

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