Making healthcare more accessible and medications more affordable: Technology to the rescue

(BPT) - If you find it challenging to understand the convoluted and sometimes conflicting information regarding your healthcare, you’re not alone.

Because the U.S. healthcare system is so complex, sometimes it can be a struggle for patients and even doctors to have clear, transparent information about the costs of medications and how they are covered by insurance.

Part of the problem is that doctors have had a near impossible job of knowing the costs of the thousands of drugs they prescribe given the many different insurance plans that cover their patients, with each charging different amounts for these medications. That’s been frustrating both for patients trying to take personal and financial ownership of their health, and for the busy doctors trying to help them.

Fortunately, technology has come to the rescue. More than 85 percent of physicians now use electronic health record (EHR) technology, which makes it possible to utilize new tools and digital platforms that provide your doctor drug and plan coverage information right in the exam room, as well as options for lower-cost alternative medications. This helps guarantee that you’re getting the right medication at the best price, as well as know in advance if the medication requires prior authorization (PA). This avoids the frustration of going to fill your prescription at the pharmacy only to learn that it’s either not covered or needs a PA.

This is just one of the many ways technology is changing healthcare. The availability and popularity of health and wellness tech tools has exploded in recent years, with wearable devices and apps providing personalized health information such as heart rate, blood pressure and sleep patterns, as well as medication, hydration and exercise reminders.

“High-tech tools gives doctors transparency into a patient prescription plan, allowing them to better monitor their patients’ conditions and make better treatment decisions, while also enabling patients to be much more knowledgeable about their health and more engaged in what they need to do to stay healthy,” said Dr. Lynne Nowak, chief physician experience officer at Express Scripts. “Technology can help make healthcare more of a partnership between the patient and the physician.”

Even when physicians are not using the latest technologies, their patients often have access to personalized treatment information right from their smartphones. One such app available through Express Scripts provides individual information so you can learn about the medications you're being prescribed and any existing safety issues, whether you need a prior authorization, what the out-of-pocket costs of the treatment will be, which pharmacies offer the best price and whether there are alternatives or generics available that would cost less. With this information in hand, you can discuss the options with your doctor and leave the office with a prescription you know you’ll be able to fill at a price you can afford.

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