Staying healthy is important at any age and at any time, but the pandemic forced everyone around the world to take a much closer look at how to stay safe and fit in ever-changing environments. To maintain your health, you may be eating a nutritious diet, making time for regular exercise, and even trying to keep up with the latest health trends. But beyond the latest superfoods, we explain 5 emerging trends borne out of social distancing, working from home, and keeping a close eye on your family’s wellbeing.
- 1. Popularity of virtual doctor visits to increase access and ease to healthcare
- 2. Use of self-help mental health apps to combat symptoms of stress
- 3. Growing interest in wearable devices to monitor chronic illness
- 4. Greater access to your medical records for transparency and clarity
- 5. Comparison shopping for healthcare for budgeting needs
- The Bottom Line
1. Popularity of virtual doctor visits to increase access and ease to healthcare
If you have had a phone or video chat with your doctor in the past year, you are part of a growing virtual care movement. The use of virtual doctor visits soared in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the continual usage of this type of care shows that virtual visits are likely here to stay.
About 40% of patients want to keep seeing doctors virtually, according to research done by McKinsey. That is nearly 4 times higher than the amount who accessed virtual care before the pandemic. Those who have had a virtual doctor visit already know how convenient it can be to receive care at home, work, or anywhere else you choose. It can be easier to get the healthcare you need when you don’t have to take time off work or disrupt your schedule.
Virtual care is also popular with doctors, which gives this trend staying power. Many doctors want to keep offering virtual visits after the pandemic is over, according to an American Medical Association survey.
2. Use of self-help mental health apps to combat symptoms of stress
The pandemic has — understandably — put a lot of strain on Americans’ mental health. A recent survey from the American Psychological Association shows the mental health consequences of pandemic-related stress: two-thirds of adults reported problems with sleeping and nearly as many experienced undesired weight changes.
It’s no surprise that mental health apps are gaining traction. There are as many as 20,000 of these apps on the market, and more are still being developed. Some self-help apps rely on specific types of therapy that help you process emotions and thought patterns, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Others may give you guided meditations to help you reduce stress.
While self-help apps don’t replace a trained therapist, there are many reasons to give them a try. Apps let you try out treatment options anytime and anywhere, and can be a critical help to those unable to seek professional care. Plus, since self-help apps are often low cost, they can be an option even if you don’t have health insurance.
3. Growing interest in wearable devices to monitor chronic illness
Wearable devices have been popular for a while now, and even if you don’t use them, you probably know someone who does. In 2019, the Pew Research Center found that about one-fifth of adults regularly wore smartwatches or fitness trackers. What’s new is the growing interest in using wearable devices to monitor chronic illnesses.
A smartwatch or fitness tracker can gather a variety of health data, and some of it may be useful to your doctor. For example, these devices can identify trends in how much sleep you are getting or how much you are exercising. Your doctor may also be interested in data the device collects about your heart rate or heart rhythm.
Medical-grade wearables are also on the rise. These devices continuously monitor your vital signs — such as how many breaths you take per minute — so that your doctor can monitor you remotely. This could be helpful in many situations. For instance, a hospital system in New York recently started using wearables to monitor people receiving cancer treatment at home.
4. Greater access to your medical records for transparency and clarity
Americans have had the right to review their medical records since the 1990s, but between high fees and long processing times, there were extensive barriers to access. Reviewing this information has become easier in recent years thanks to online patient portals, and the trend toward transparency in healthcare continues in 2022.
A new law gives you even greater access to your medical records. As of April 5, 2021, you can view your electronic health information online at no cost. This includes many types of notes left by your doctor. These notes may include consultations, documentation from procedures, and findings from imaging and lab tests. This increased transparency may help you stay healthy and gain more understanding about your health conditions.
5. Comparison shopping for healthcare for budgeting needs
Comparison shopping can help you find deals on everything from groceries to clothing to electronics. Still, even budget-savvy shoppers may have trouble shopping around for healthcare services. It can be hard to learn the costs of medical procedures and treatments upfront.
This is starting to change. The Hospital Price Transparency rule took effect on January 1, 2021, and it requires each hospital in the United States to post pricing information online. In addition, hospitals are now required to share their standard prices for 300 or more procedures that you can schedule in advance. This includes procedures like colonoscopies, X-rays, and lab tests. Plus, they have to list the discounted price they will accept if you pay with cash.
This new price transparency makes it easier for you to shop around for healthcare that fits your budget. It’s now possible to get an estimate of how much your care may cost. Not only does this help avoid surprises when you open the bill, but it also helps you plan financially. For example, you may choose to save up for a treatment you need rather than taking on unexpected medical debt.
The Bottom Line
The latest trends in healthcare may offer big benefits for your health. Not only can you take advantage of new digital healthcare options, but you can enjoy greater transparency from the healthcare system.