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IT and the Health Care Consumer

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By: Jim Michaels, Vice President of Information Technology Operations
July 13, 2012

Information Technology and the Health Care Consumer

Information technology (IT) moves at the speed of light.  With more and more people using smartphones, mobile apps and tablet computers, access to information is more readily available than ever before.  For health care consumers, advancements in technology have already impacted the way they receive and manage their care, and more changes are on the horizon.

In the past, many people were passive participants in their health care.  But thanks to technology, individuals now have much greater access to health information, helping them become active participants in their care.  Here are some areas where health care consumers have noticed the greatest change.

Access to health information on the internet

Today there are countless websites that help consumers understand their health.  Whether you want to research a certain ache or pain, or learn more about different surgical options, a wealth of information is available on the web.

Of course, it’s important to make sure that the information is accurate and complete.  Consumers should only consider online information from reputable sites that are affiliated with a professional, educational or government organization.  And always remember that your personal physician is in the best position to offer medical advice. Any information gained from the internet should only be used to help you start that conversation with your doctor.

Access to personal information

Advances in IT have also made it possible to securely manage and share individual medical information online.  Web based applications make it easy to manage many aspects of a person’s health care, including insurance information, medical records, physician information, lab results and prescriptions.

Access to family information

In addition to individual health management, IT developments can also give you varying degrees of access to your family members’ medical information.  These applications are ideal for those who provide care for elderly parents or for children.  The information is available at your fingertips and helps keep you in the loop when it comes to your family’s health and wellbeing.

General wellness tools

Everything from calorie counters and weight loss tips, to tools designed to help manage specific conditions like diabetes, are now available through IT applications and web based sites.  The information can be used either under the guidance of a physician or for general knowledge.

All of these IT developments are driving a change of focus for health management.  Through this open flow of information, patients can educate themselves and be more prepared when they meet with their physician.  This patient-centric model means individuals have more control and become more engaged in managing their care.

Because we understand the value of IT as a tool for health care consumers, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BCNEPA) will continue to provide information access and health management options for our members.

BCNEPA currently offers apps for mobile devices like Android and iPhones that provide BCNEPA members with access to their health insurance information on the go.  And soon, BCNEPA’s website will also include transparency tools to help consumers access performance ratings for physicians, costs of service calculators and provider grading systems from accredited bodies.

In addition, BCNEPA is one of many entities that will be participating in Health Information Exchanges (HIEs).  These online clearinghouses will provide a vehicle for physicians, hospitals and other care providers to share health information securely and safely.  They also allow individuals to control who has access to this data.  HIEs will help the health care system reduce costs, reduce duplication, provide better treatment and avoid conflicting care.

Ultimately, all of this information helps you, the health care consumer, make more educated decisions.  And when individuals become more educated and engaged in managing their health, everybody benefits.

Jim Michaels is the Vice President of Information Technology Operations at Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

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