Healthcare is Going Digital in 2014

Move over, electronic health records: 2014 is shaping up to be the year of healthcare technology with a real-time benefit to consumers.

A number of tech trends – some new, others more established – are poised to change the way consumers find healthcare, interact with providers, and reap physical and financial benefits for pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Below are just some of the possibilities of healthcare technology on the market today.

Shop smarter for care. Online healthcare sourcing companies are developing responsive systems through which consumers can locate the best provider for their care concerns and know the real cost of service – including deductibles and co-pays – before ever making an appointment.

The doctor is in…your house. New applications and online services will give patients the opportunity to receive a digital house call rather than go out to a hospital or doctor’s office. Doctors can provide medical advice by phone, email, and possibly even video chat so patients can avoid higher out-of-pocket costs or the contamination risk of waiting among other sick people for care.

Wearable health monitors. Pedometers and wearable fitness devices such as Nike’s FuelBand and FitBit’s line of products became even more popular in 2013, and the trend is set to expand further in 2014. Fitness tech companies are turning to sensor-equipped workout clothing, like that already used by Major League Soccer, to provide more accurate data capture and a higher level of comfort for consumers at every level of fitness.

Get paid to get – and stay – healthy. Many companies and health insurance providers already offer discounts on premiums and other healthcare costs to consumers who take steps to improve their health, whether by meeting established health care goals or by enrolling in a gym or weight-loss program like Weight Watchers. In 2014, insurance companies are expected to similarly reward consumers who use health monitoring apps like MyFitnessPal to track their nutrition and physical activity.

In addition to this, there are applications on the market that will reward users for hitting their goals. One, the popular Pact (more than 100,000 downloads on the Google Play store), incentivizes healthy lifestyle decisions – higher vegetable consumption, food tracking, and workouts – by paying users who meet their goals and fining users who don’t.

Track your health for targeted wellness suggestions. Even though insurance companies aren’t paying you to monitor your health just yet, it is never too soon to get started. There are hundreds of mobile applications available for Android and iOS devices that help you track your activity and calorie intake. As health technology evolves, there is a very good chance that the apps consumers are already using may be integrated into consumers’ online health profiles. This would provide an aggregated picture of each consumer’s health as well as the opportunity for consumers to get targeted suggestions for improving their lifestyle.

These healthcare technology trends have the potential to benefit companies that subsidize their employees’ health care coverage. In the interim, make sure your company has the cash flow to effectively cover your employees with PRN Funding’s healthcare factoring program. Learn more about healthcare factoring services and complete our application today to get started.

ACA: Employer Mandate Receives New Extension

Earlier this week, the IRS released its final rule on the employer mandate. Among provisions regarding employee transition periods and how to classify employees for counting purposes was a new extension of the employer mandate.

After a previous extension moved the start date to January 1, 2015, the mandate is now postponed until 2016 for employers with 50-99 full-time employees. In addition, while large companies with more than 100 employees are still subject to the mandate in 2015, they only have to offer coverage to 70 percent of their full-time workforce for the first year the mandate is in effect.

The Obama administration explained the extension as an effort to give affected companies additional time to come into compliance with the mandate. Two percent of U.S. companies are classified as mid-size and two percent are large, but those companies employ as much as 70 percent of the total labor force in the United States.

Criticism of the announcement centers on frustration that the individual mandate, seen by many to be more of a burden than the employer mandate, went into effect on its originally schedule date of January 1, 2014. Consumers still have six weeks, until March 31, to enroll in a qualifying healthcare plan. The delay of the employer mandate could push a number of those consumers to the online marketplaces if they are unable to obtain a policy through their employer.

The staffing industry is also frustrated with other provisions of the IRS final rule, which limit staffing agencies’ ability to classify their employees as variable-hour or to take advantage of look-back periods to determine their status for insurance purposes. This could potentially raise healthcare costs for these agencies if they are required to provide coverage to employees who are later determined to be variable-hour or part-time.

If you have a nurse staffing agency or work in the medical field and are worried about rising healthcare costs, PRN Funding’s healthcare factoring program can help you turn your receivables into immediate cash. Learn more about healthcare factoring and contact us to get started today.

CVS Announces an End to Tobacco Sales

CVS Caremark announced today that they will end all tobacco product sales in their stores by October 1, 2014, making them the first and only national pharmacy chain so far to do so.

CEO Larry Merlo explains the decision as one to “[position] CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company.” The move, while projected to cost the business $2 billion in annual revenue, is meant to align their product selection with their commitment to health care and information.

In addition, beginning this spring CVS will offer a stop smoking program nationwide in an effort to encourage their customers to cut out tobacco use. Chief Medical Officer Troy Brennan pointed out that health care through the Affordable Care Act is expensive to provide, therefore promoting good health is important.

The company has already received messages of support from President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, and follows the path of retailers Target Corp and Wegmans which ended tobacco sales in 1996 and 2008 respectively. In addition, they have good company at the city level: San Francisco banned the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies in 2008 and Boston did so in 2009.

Anti-tobacco activists are hopeful that CVS’ announcement will set an example that other pharmacy chains and retailers will follow, though when interviewed spokespeople for both Walgreens and Rite Aid said that they would continue selling cigarettes while they weigh consumer demand.

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