Technology is Changing Healthcare as We Know It

Technological advances in healthcare have been touted as game-changers: advanced equipment for better results and faster care. For every updated practice that truly improves efficiency and lowers cost, however, there are a handful of other developments that simply raise the cost to patients without creating better solutions.

Unfortunately, inefficient and expensive advances have created new revenue streams by complicating the care process for patients and making more follow-up appointments necessary. On top of that, many healthcare systems pass on the cost of large equipment to their patients by raising the cost of different procedures.

All of that could change as the economics of healthcare change. New technologies such as exam adapters for mobile devices and 3D printing are already in production and may be the new wave of efficient and low-cost patient care, but in order to embrace these technologies and remain relevant in a value market hospitals and health care systems will need to completely transform the way they do business.

In hospital fee structures that move away from the traditional fee-for-service format, for example, practitioners will have to shift their focus to doing what works best to treat a patient rather than doing what they can bill more for. Moreover, the entire infrastructure of care must be adapted to incorporate new technologies so they are not only accessible but also secure and compliant with federal privacy regulations.

That said, if hospitals and medical groups choose to move toward integrated technology they have the potential to make healthcare not only less expensive in the long run, but truly better.

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SEIU Seeks Hospital Price and Salary Caps on West Coast

The Service Employees International Union has threatened to introduce ballot measures in California and Oregon in an effort to cap hospital prices and executive salaries.

SEIU officials filed petitions with the respective states’ attorneys general early in November to add ballot initiatives to the November 2014 general election. The California initiatives would cap executives’ salaries at $450,000 per year, equal to the salary of the President of the United States, and would limit hospitals’ ability to upcharge for services to 25 percent above cost. SEIU claims that current charges are approximately 320 percent above cost. Hospitals would also be required to report their costs and expenses and would face fines for improper billing statements or failure to disclose that information.

The initiatives are the same in Oregon, with different specific caps: executive pay would be capped at 15 times the salary of the lowest-paid hospital employee, and service prices would be capped at 30 percent above cost. In addition, the Oregon ballot measures would include a requirement for non-profit hospitals to spent at least five percent of their revenue on charity care or community health. Both states’ proposed measures include a requirement to publicize the actual cost of routine procedures.

While the SEIU claims that these measures would improve the quality of care and reduce healthcare costs, hospital officials argue that they would not adequately address healthcare costs but would instead cut revenue and negatively impact the quality of care provided. The SEIU has offered to withdraw the petitions in both states if hospital industry executives will work with them. Any such arrangement would possibly include a neutrality agreement that would allow the union to organize hospital employees without interference from the hospital.

The Supreme Court is currently reviewing the validity of such neutrality agreements, and they are set to decide whether they violate labor laws regulating the exchange of “thing(s) of value” between businesses and unions. In the meantime, hospital administrators and SEIU representatives will prepare to throw millions of dollars into a possible ballot battle.

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