How technology has made things more complicated for healthcare insurers

How technology has made things more complicated for healthcare insurers | Insurance Business America

How technology has made things more complicated for healthcare insurers

The insurance industry is getting bigger and this brings a whole new set of challenges for the professionals in the business. With the growth of the industry comes advancements in technology – advancements that are beneficial to patients and medical practitioners alike, but that insurance and medical professionals have found come with their own set of problems. Lainie Dorneker, President of Ironhealth discussed the fast-evolving healthcare landscape with IB Talk.

1. With better technology comes higher patient expectations

Dorneker talked about what the current landscape of healthcare in the United States looks like. She said that healthcare was being “delivered in different new ways and virtually and through robotics and the like.” The idea of robotic procedures often means that patients can expect better outcomes and speed up the healing process, and Dorneker sees this as a potential problem because the standard of care rises. So, when the outcome isn’t optimal, patients are more disappointed.

“The other thing that we’re seeing in the healthcare sector is technology and healthcare really growing hand in hand and of course with the increase in the technology in the healthcare field with wearables, robotic surgeries, telehealth, etc.” Dorneker said.

She continued by saying this creates more vulnerabilities on the part of medical practitioners. She said, “that creates new exposures and it also creates new and heightened expectations on the part of the patient.”

“I think that when it comes to technology, people have an assumption that technology can’t fail,” said Dorneker. She knows that this is not the case and technology does fail sometimes. “When you have a rise of expectations, you know, there could be a rise of litigation when there’s a bad outcome,” she noted. She also points out that “bad outcomes don’t necessarily mean bad medicine.” Still, she stated that they have seen a rise in claims being filed. 

2. Responsibility for errors is harder to place

There is no definitive answer when asked who is responsible for errors made during robotic surgery and other medical procedures overtaken by technology. Perhaps plenty of people are responsible but who is the most responsible? Who will the plaintiff file a complaint against and who needs the most legal protection? It used to be that if a doctor made a mistake when practicing medicine, it was easier to point fingers. Now, you must question if it was a human error or a tech error. Was the doctor not using the tech correctly or was the device defective? Is there someone higher up who should be held responsible for buying the device for the doctor to use in the first place?

“When the technology fails and the outcome isn’t optimal, we have to think about who’s to blame,” Dorneker said. “Is it the physician who used the equipment? Is it the hospital that made the decision to purchase the equipment? Is it the actual hardware, is it the software?” She said due to this, we see different types of exposures and people in corporations being dragged in.

3. There are more exposures to data hacking

Medical information is extremely sensitive and, unfortunately, digitizing this information can sometimes make them more vulnerable to hackings. Dorneker said that the ability to avoid a “loss is virtually impossible at this point.”

“If someone wants to hack into a hospital systems records, they’re going to find a way to do that,” she said.

She adds that it actually happens in real life - like something out of an episode of Black Mirror, Dorkener states that they’ve seen hospitals that were held hostage because hackers froze their systems and demanded a ransom to release files.

Indeed, there is even more exposure now because there are so many kinds of devices to hack.

“What’s emerging is just the idea that the number of devices that can be hacked into are expanding robotics and wearables,” she said. “So really the amount of data at risk has grown and the consequences of that event can be pretty disastrous.”

All this being said, the benefits of technology for the practice of medicine are undeniable. Procedures have become less invasive so there is a lesser risk of infection. It is easier to diagnose illnesses, and ailments that previously took many lives now have solutions. Even simpler procedures like starting an IV has been made easier and less painful for patients with tools like a vein finder. Overall, technology creates more solutions than problems in the medical field. Although these advancements may require more work for insurers, the industry will no doubt adapt as precedents are established.


Related stories:
The changing face of US healthcare insurance