5 Technological Breakthroughs in Medicine:
This Is What the Future of Medicine Will Look Like
18 March 2016 | Sduduziwe Nene
Our world is certainly evolving at a rapid rate within a short space of time. Technology has introduced major shifts into our daily lives- from redefining our communication methods, to new career opportunities and everything else in between. Medicine is evidently not exempt from these technological adjustments, and this is what the future is predicted to look like:
Knowledge is power
The healthcare specialist-patient gap is slowly fading away. Patients are constantly bombarded with information from various websites meaning they now have effortless access to published research about their illnesses/diagnosis. Though consulting with your doctor will always be the encouraged option; moving forward, patients will grow more curious to do their own research first. The outcome (hopefully) is that patients will be more likely to make well informed health choices with all the information available to them.
What would the future be without some robots, right? According to Forbes, we are to expect surgical rooms that have humanoid robots assisting in performing surgery. These robots will be integrated into the team of surgeons; and they will be able to perform risky
operations that human hands are limited from operating and they are expected to give precise results. The robots will also make it possible for surgeons to operate on patients that are not even on the same room as them countries away- as the robots will be able to take & follow instructions.
The future will see a wide usage of wearable devices that work as body sensors operating by collecting important health data directly from your body and displaying the results for you to view. Discovery Vitality in partnership with Apple has already introduced the Apple Watch which is currently one of the most trending devices in the market. The watch records your activities; enables you to set goals and rewards you upon completion of each goal. It has been successful in pushing people towards making health conscious choices on a daily basis. The future will also see the introduction of wearable healing devices- assisting in healing patients as they are wearing them.
This includes evolution in prosthetics for paralysed people. The wearable exoskeleton is created to fit into the human body and shape to offer support to the patient. There’s already been breakthrough in robotic suits that help patients regain their motion and movement. What’s also interesting is the ability for the suits to mimic the patient’s moment.
Genetic Testing is the new wave to have taken over medicine. Discovery once again seems to be at the forefront of this phenomenal movement. Discovery in partnership with Craig Venter who is a genome pioneer, has introduced to its Vitality members the possibility for genetic testing. According to Claire Rencken, cyberstoep.co.za, this offer makes it possible for members to get low-cost full genome sequencing in exchange for giving their data to Venter’s company, Gunman Longevity Inc & Discovery.
DNA testing has been welcomed within the medicine community and hailed as one of the answers to preventing any future disease a patient might suffer from in the future. Actress Angelina Jolie made headlines not so long ago when she took the test because of a family history of breast cancer. The results indicated a mutation of the BRCA1 breast cancer game which led her to choosing to undergo a bilateral mastectomy amongst other operations.
Technological innovations are evolving from the most basic items all the way to the more complex area of medicine, and all these changes without a doubt will function to make our lives much easier, cure diseases more effectively and quicker, detect and diagnose illnesses much earlier or help prevent them from taking place all together.
When Is The Right Time To Start Saving For Retirement?
10 February 2016 | Sduduziwe Nene
In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “The best way to predict the future is to create it” is probably the best way to answer this question. Unfortunately, most working people see retirement as a theory that roams galaxies away from them and opt to forget about entirely.
Technically, it is never too early to start financially investing in your future. The best part when it comes to saving for retirement is that we are exposed to professional assistance and have more information now more than ever before. There’s an option for you to sit down with a professional financial planner who will analyse your current expenses and compare them to what you’ll need upon retirement; and therefore come up with a plan tailor-made for your lifestyle.
Still not convinced you need to start saving for retirement today? Here’s a push in the right direction: Studies have shown that most people will require a retirement income of between 70% – 90% of their pre-retirement salary for them to be able to maintain their current lifestyle costs during retirement. Here are a few benefits to early retirement planning that you should keep in mind:
As your investments accumulate over time that creates an option for you to choose early retirement should you wish to do so. This is due to the high level of financial freedom you would have reached from your early savings while you still had sufficient time to establish a secure future for yourself.
Studies have shown that over 65% of people who start saving in their 20s are more confident they will be able to securely retire by age 60 compared to those who wait longer to start investing in their retirement savings. Despite these findings, only 27% of people actively start saving for retirement in their 20s which unfortunately will put pressure on most people to delay taking retirement due to insufficient funds.
Anything is better than nothing
We all have different priorities and schedule our plans according to what matters most, which is why retirement saving requires more convincing for someone who might not necessarily see saving as a high priority (which it actually is). In reality, once you start to procrastinate about when you will start saving for retirement you will simply not start at all or start when there’s not enough time left. When will you contact a financial planner to take you through a retirement plan? Tomorrow, perhaps? Unfortunately life has unpredictable turns that catch us off guard and can distract us from important things until we forget about them entirely.
Richard Barrington, CFA, primary spokesperson for MoneyRates.com states that “Retirement saving may be more challenging today than it’s ever been. People are living longer than ever and thus must support themselves for an increasing number of years, yet a changing economy can quickly make the skills of older workers outmoded,”…“Meanwhile, the absence of income production puts all the more pressure on savings to carry the load in retirement.”
It’s easy to neglect your retirement saving until later on, but the sooner you start on a savings plan, the better you chances of securing a comfortable living upon retirement- which is a lot of motivation even for a sceptic. According to studies retired without enough funds rely on the government and/or their children to financially care for them, which creates may restrictions lifestyle-wise. So when is the right time to start saving for retirement? Yesterday.
What does your TAX-FREE Investment look like after 20 years?
12 February 2016 | Sduduziwe Nene
Saving gives you a sense of security knowing you are prepared for life and you are investing your money in the future. Knowing that the money you put aside will not be affected by tax in any form is the best invitation to start saving. The Income Tax Act has made it possible for investors to sign up for a tax-free savings account. What is means is that your investment will not be attracting zero tax.
The tax-free investment plan is unique in its flexibility as well. You have an option to make a lump sum investment on R30 000, or make recurring investments of up to R10 200 a year depending on the plan you’ve chosen and that which is option that best suits you.
Now let us take a look at what your tax-free savings will look like 20 years from now compared to a general non-tax-free savings plan:
The best part is how the tax-free savings plan carries a range of options to choose from that are tailored to your specific needs and profile- your financial planner will assist you in choosing the fund that best suits you.
The 10 Important Questions to Ask When Considering a Medical Aid Scheme
22 October 2015 | Sduduziwe Nene
Medical Aid is a necessity and luckily, there exists a variety of options that suite each member’s needs. ‘Knowledge is power’ is the same logic applicable when it comes to choosing a medical aid scheme- you strive to pay attention to every detail and characteristic of your preferred medical scheme to remain informed and avoid unpleasant surprises.
So before joining, stop and reflect on whether you’ve done thorough research on your desired scheme.
This list of questions will give you insight on how schemes operate and help unravel what to focus on before you commit your funds to your desired scheme.
- Does the Scheme have the reserves to pay large Hospital claims?
The scheme’s financial stability is one of the most crucial factors to investigate before joining. You want to join a scheme that can withstand large claims without crumbling under pressure of falling into bankruptcy. The scheme’s actual solvency relative to the statutory requirement of 25%; if it fails to reach this minimum standard than you might have to move along to a more stable scheme.
When investing in a certain medical scheme, it is crucial to know that the company is stable and doesn’t take any unnecessary and harmful risks. Factors such as size and years in the business need to be taken into consideration- all these will give you a clear picture of the scheme’s reliability and maturity.
- What is the average of the members? Is the scheme attracting young healthy members? Is the Scheme growing?
In general, larger and growing medical aids are considered financially more sustainable than the smaller schemes that show little membership growth. The scale of larger funds also works in favour of both the scheme itself as well as its members when it comes to negotiating with healthcare service providers to maintain payable fees.
You can decode that the scheme is growing by its ability to attract young and healthy members. According to today.moneyweb.com medical schemes work on the concept of risk pooling, where the risk contribution charged to members is based on a combination of expected medical and non-healthcare expenses, as well as the returns expected from the scheme’s assets. The larger the membership, the larger the risk pool of the fund.
Size is however not all there is to it; the scheme should combine its young members with financial stability to earn a solid reputation.
- Are you being rewarded for leading a healthy lifestyle?
The wellness and fitness wave has taken the health care industry by storm- and a scheme that is not promoting a healthy lifestyle to its clients will sooner rather than later need to catch up. From Discovery giving us Vitality to Bonitas introducing Sanlam Reality- clients are now more aware than ever of the responsibility they have in taking care of their health through exercise and healthy diet.
These schemes use their wellness programmes to collaborate with many other businesses where members get discounts on certain health products and services. Not only do members partake in healthy activities but they actually get rewarded upon completing their intended tasks. For example, Vitality’s groundbreaking collaboration with Apple to offer its members the Apple Watch for free- where they can use the watch to set daily fitness goals, then track their performance and upon completion of each task is rewarded with anything from a delicious Kauai smoothie to bigger rewards.
- What does the Scheme cover and exclude and does it suite your health care needs?
What is being covered will normally vary from one scheme to another, and can change from time to time. Cover also depends on the option you’ve opted for within the Scheme- whatever option you choose, it’s important you do research on what you are covered for and what will be excluded to avoid any surprises. Most schemes will pay claims, at between 100% up to 300% of their own Medical Scheme Rate which is sourced from the National Health Reference Price List as a reference.
For that reason, it is necessary to negotiate rates with your health care specialist, whether it is a GP or any other health care professional before treatment. Find out if the doctor charges Medical Scheme Rates and if they charge above scheme rates, and the procedure was a non-emergency, you may be responsible for taking care of the costs that fall outside the scheme’s cover pool.
- Is the Scheme creating new methods to ensure your health is the main priority?
This does not only include health or medical related care- but the scheme’s ability to provide educational and relevant information to its members. Is the scheme accessible? Does is go the extra mile to ensure it negotiates fair rates for its members? By creating new ways to ensure you peace of mind when it comes to things like service and accessibility- the scheme creates a caring and a ‘members first’ reputation.
It could be that the scheme has introduced a new App that allows you to find a GP nearest to you or offering a wide variety of health plans, making it more possible for members to find one that suites their needs. Whatever it may be- the scheme’s features that exist to make life a little easier.
- Does the Scheme operate on Preferred Provider Networks?
Medical Aid Schemes seem to be progressively introducing service provider networks to help maintain costs. The provider could be a pharmacy, GP, specialist or hospital network, to name a few. Members should make the decision regarding their non-contracted service provider, which often removes choice from the member where they already have existing relationships with their GP or pharmacist, and where service excellence is guaranteed.
Basically, if you choose to use a health care professional who is not included in your scheme’s Preferred Provider Network, you are either given a penalty co-payment or asked to pay the gap cost between what your health care professional charges and what the scheme is willing to pay.
It is crucial to find out whether the pharmacy is contracted with your medical aid before purchasing any products and acquiring its services- the same applies with any other specialist you visit.
- When it comes to Chronic Diseases, is the Scheme able to provide quality care and medicine?
Chronic medication is one of the sections that calls for critical planning and requires that members equip themselves with knowledge as much as possible. It is important that as a member you verify that your condition is indeed viewed as a chronic disease by the medical scheme and that the medication you use will be covered by the scheme.
Like the preferred provider networks explanation as mentioned above- the scheme can select that their members utilise only certain chronic medication providers to which failure to do so result in co-payment. Ensure you know the maximum/limit amount you can spend on your chronic medication before you overspend it and find yourself having to pay from your own pocket.
It lies on your GP or pharmacist to have the advice on alternative methods of medication; but lies with you to ensure that you take your medication as required by your specialist.
- Does the Scheme have the best and extended Hospital Cover it could possibly provide?
Unexpected circumstances happen all the time- and you do not want to be caught without any coverage when you need it the most. The scheme’s hospital plan will give you more understanding of how far they are able to take care of you. While the scheme’s ability to pay hospital claims is hand in hand with its hospital cover; hospital cover is the extensive ability for the scheme to a) allow you the basic admission to hospital b) cover serious surgery procedures e.g. transplants c) cover for further hospital examinations e.g. x-rays etc.
- Does the Scheme cover examinations to ensure early detection of any health conditions that might arise in the future?
Prevention is indeed better than cure, and that statement remains much true when it comes to our health. That is why it is imperative that health problems are detected earlier on to start implementing methods to avoid or minimise the effects. When you treat a disease early, you may be able to prevent or delay problems from the disease. In short, find out if the scheme allows for regular screening tests and examinations of (among others) mammograms to find breast cancer, diabetes, eye tests and others.
According to Cancer Research UK http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/ More than 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage survive their disease for at least 5 years compared to around 15% for women diagnosed with the most advanced stage of disease.
10. Look at the Scheme’s annual rate hikes. Does the Scheme introduce reasonable premium increases?
Medical scheme contributions like any other industry increase from time to time- but fairly adjusted hikes are necessary instead of increases that exponentially rise like an avalanche. Look at the scheme’s past hike records and history. That being said, it doesn’t mean you must blindly switch to the cheapest scheme! It simply means that you observe whether the scheme is able to fiercely negotiate with health care providers on behalf of its members.
Jessica Anne Wood, journalist, states here that some of the country’s largest medical schemes have announced their increases for 2016. The increases range between average increases of 8.6% and 10.5%. The contribution increase is inevitable and necessary for the scheme to be able to carry its member’s medical costs, claims, medical inflation, more advanced medical procedure and technologies.
The medical needs of each person will largely vary according to factors such as the number of dependents, salary, health conditions among others. What remains uniform though is the member’s responsibility to empower themselves on the latest offers and modifications to their scheme of choice.