NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, December 9, 2015, 12:01 AM
Next year, expect people to take more control of their health — virtually.
More doctors will check in with patients from remote locales and more people will monitor their health through apps on their phones, according to a new report from PricewaterhouseCooper’s.
“We are seeing a steady embrace of tools,” says Trine Tsouderos, co-director of PWC Health Research Institute. “Sixteen percent of consumers in 2013 had a health app and in 2015, 32 percent had health apps.”
Most health apps breakdown along activity and nutrition trackers, but people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart problems can use them to monitor vitals which they report to their doctors.
The institute is releasing its 10th annual report on health predictions on Wednesday. The report is a result of surveying 1,000 Americans and interviews with physicians, pharmaceutical and insurance company executives.
Aside from consumers taking the initiative with apps, additional predictions include a push to help people get psychological counseling and manage health costs.
“Now there is the opportunity to get treatment as well through telehealth, for virtual interactions with clinicians,” says Benjamin Isgur, a health policy researcher and co-director at the institute. “This is the big disrupter to how the medical system works now.”
Another change expected in 2016 is a surge in what experts now call behavioral health – better known as mental health.
Expect to see more people use psychological counseling in 2016 as more employers conform with the Mental Health Parity Act.
More companies are likely to invest in employees’ mental health since mental illnesses cost US companies a whopping $ 440 billion a year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“With a swipe of your finger, almost on demand, you can talk to a doctor or have a mental health consultation,” Isgur says. “A lot of people’s physical health is related to mental health. Many doctors feel you need to treat the whole person.”
The experts also expect to see stricter enforcement of the Mental Health Parity Act, which requires insurance companies to “cover the brain as they would any other part of the body,” Isgur explains.
Those going online to use medical services are likely to break down along expected generational lines, with older people hoping to see doctors in person and younger ones being more open to a remote visit.
Insurance companies are also expected to work with policy holders to better manage health care spending by creating funds similar to 401-Ks for medical costs next year, according to the report.
“We all have higher deductibles and the banks are starting to get interested in helping consumers manage with health care spending,” Tsouderos says.