Drenched in blood and sweat, when a person reached the hospital, it was a horrendous experience for me to watch him lying on the stretcher if not lifelessly then certainly in great agony. Standing at some distance, all I could do was notice him. Waking from my thoughts made me realize my own purpose of being there; which was to get a routine checkup.
Soon after I was done, I tried to peep into the room of the patient in pain whom I had seen some hours ago. He looked better now. Wanting to spare him the uncanny feeling of being watched by a stranger, I went to my doctor to pay the bill and head back home.
It was at that moment that the billing assistant walked in and said “that’ll be 1300, sir”
Baffled, I said “But my periodical routine checkups usually cost 2000. Why the pleasant surprise this time around?”
It was my doctor’s turn to speak -, “Think about it. Patient A coming to the hospital suffering from a serious illness due to excessive liquor consumption and another, like you, just for a routine check- up. But, when it comes to billing for your checkup, after you registered in our health tracker app, both of these patients pay the same amount of money, would that be acceptable? Of course not.” he said
“So you mean if I live a healthy lifestyle, which I do, my routine checkup billing amount will be lowered? “ I asked excitedly.
“Yes, of course! People living a healthier lifestyle shouldn’t be crammed into the same category with alcoholics or lethargic people!”
“This problem was mainly prevalent when healthcare providers weren’t monitoring the pattern of activity levels and lifestyle of the patients. A significantly higher risk of getting hospitalized is definitely connected with sedentary or unhealthy lifestyle of people. Healthier patients can be rewarded with lower billing charges. Isn’t it fair?” He said.
“Yes, it certainly is!”
I knew I was getting the hang of it, but couldn’t quite grasp the nuances. So I came up with some more questions.
The doctor continued to explain, “In the same breath, try to think about drivers. Suppose driver X drives safe and Driver Y is an unsafe driver, why would the safe driver also pay high vehicle insurance premiums at par with driver Y, assuming neither of them have had any accidents? The risk associated with their driving should be accurately mapped by the insurance company in order to know and not assume that all drivers have risky driving habits or road rage. After all, ‘assumptions lead to the greatest mistakes’ is a common adage” he went on.
“So, how is the problem tackled?” I asked.
“Something the computer technology people call ‘Big Data’ comes into play. Big data is simply the amalgamation and good use of massive data produced by today’s digitally connected world every day or in fact, every minute. Once it gets functional in all sectors, problems like these will be terminated. Since Big Data is more about visualizing, analyzing and predicting different structures of human behavior and less about working on hypotheses, It’s likely that it’ll benefit every industry and its markets without any barriers.
Seeing me in awe of his knowledge, he went on, “Everything, from your last treatment to the medicines you’ve been taking, to broad scale disease profiling is taken into cognizance to predict events. So basically, when big data is analyzed, and all these patterns reveal themselves- it‘s leveraged by the healthcare and associated industries to develop a better and personalized experience for the patient – from diagnosis and treatment to billing, all eventually ensuring better quality healthcare at lower costs, thanks to Big Data Analytics”, he continued, “The healthcare sector has become personalized with the emergence of big data”.
“Therefore to reach a deeper understanding of outcomes, we have started using a new big data and analytics platform to monitor the pattern of patients in collaboration with health insurance companies. So, yes, this is why you’ve been given a ‘discount’ “, he smiled.
Excited and happy about it, I paid the bill.
Enlightened, I thanked him for sparing time to make me familiar with the term I had just heard about till now.