Providers are increasingly applying technology to improve the health of large populations–and plan sponsors can take a chapter from their playbook.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal expands on this notion. Tools like telemedicine technology, smartphones, and mobile health applications allow individuals to have greater access to their health data. They connect patients and caregivers in new ways, making healthcare more convenient and affordable. Other tools empower people to monitor their health status, meet diet and fitness goals, and even remotely manage chronic conditions such as heart disease and asthma.

While barriers remain, such as the healthcare industry’s conservative culture and varying state legislation that limits the reach of telemedicine across state borders, the potential for this technology to have real positive effects on individuals’ health outcomes is real.

The potential is just as great for health plan sponsors. Technology-driven wellness programs cannot only help people reach lifestyle goals, but also catch chronic diseases before they become full-blown. They can help identify those who need extra effort to avoid emergency visits and hospitalizations.

If wellness programs entered the digital era, applying innovative technology tools and perhaps even combining them with predictive analytics, they could become early warning systems. Digital wellness programs could empower individuals to take charge of their own healthcare, to make smart lifestyle choices, and to reduce their likelihood of developing a chronic illness later in life.

For the complete article in the Wall Street Journal, click here.

[Photo Credit: Logan Ingalls on Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0]