Wellpoint CEO: Technology, smartphones will shape healthcare's future

Many people hold the future of healthcare in their hands--or in their pockets.

Smartphone technology, social media and data mining will drive change and shift the future of healthcare, said Wellpoint, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Joseph Swedish (pictured right), the Malcolm T. MacEachern Memorial Lecturer at the American College of Healthcare Executives Congress in Chicago last week.

"In just a single generation there's been a fundamental shift in the way people interact with personal technology," Swedish said. "We've also made great advances in data mining that serves as an end-to-end tool affecting decision-making that is fast, accurate and predicted."

Consumers--once empowered with information and given incentives to make smart choices--will help push the marketplace toward greater convenience, efficiency and quality, Swedish said. It's up to the healthcare industry to provide and facilitate information and create tools that offer value-based decision-making. For example, consumer-driven health plans have created the "first wave of revolutionaries" with employers that set the maximum amount of money they'll pay for procedures, he said.

Mobile telehealth is an exciting new opportunity to advance how the industry administers and consumes healthcare as well, he said. It allows consumers to have a physician experience whenever they want with online chats, video sessions and on the phone. Physicians can recommend treatments and sometimes even prescribe medication remotely, depending on state laws, he said.

Consumers, providers and employers should have access to information in order to make the best choices possible, Swedish said. Aligned incentives and positive health behaviors create benefits for consumers, employers and providers. Provider collaboration uses value-based payments and shared back-end cost savings to improve patient safety, satisfaction and outcomes. "This ensures incentives remain aligned around quality while also having a tangible way to share in the success of making sure healthcare costs remain down," he said.

"As a health plan, our responsibility in this revolution is to be the connective tissue that binds the ecosystem. We have data coming in from every direction that is combined with us being a trusted source of information for our 36 million members," Swedish said.