Guest post by Torben Nielsen, senior vice president product and strategy, HealthSparq.
The past few years have seen record investments in digital health. More than $12 billion have been poured into digital health companies in 2014 and 2015 alone, according to Rock Health, and there’s no indication of any slowing in 2016. Here are my predictions for what’s in store for health care in the New Year:
#1: Fragmented and disparate data sets turning into relevant and comprehensive information sets
Healthcare data sources have been siloed and fragmented for years. Data in electronic health records (EHRs) have worked within the hospital setting (to some degree), but not across systems, or for the consumer. Patient portals have attempted to bring data together, but with limited adoption due to sporadic data, old interfaces and no clear use model. With new data standards, APIs, and open source developments, data will become more fluid and accessible. We will finally start to see data portability and data integration in ways not witnessed before. This will be to the benefit of the consumer, who will be able to share and embed data from different sources into their preferred view. This will ultimately create a more relevant and engaged experience for the healthcare consumer.
#2 Continuous and team-based care on the rise
Along with a deeper and more portable experience of one’s own healthcare information (both from the healthcare system and via patient-driven data) comes a more continuous and streamlined patient-doctor experience. Interaction between the patient and the system will happen via Wi-Fi enabled technology and smart devices allowing for a continuous stream of data and information. This will benefit the doctor, who will be able to interact and react much faster. It will also do away with the “information black-outs” that often occurs between the time a patient visits their physician, all the way until their next scheduled visit. The patient will also be able to better track their condition. Furthermore, much of this information can be shared with the patient’s broader care team such as significant others, children, specialists, etc. This will ultimately benefit the care provider, the patient and the overall system.
#3 Millennials will be the catalysts for the healthcare consumer revolution
One of the most over-used buzzwords in the healthcare industry today is “consumer/patient engagement.” Everyone seems to have a solution for driving up engagement for the masses. However, it’s a fallacy to believe that anyone or everyone will engage in a particular system, process or technology. As is the case with most products, an early-adopter segment needs to be identified to successfully scale and ramp up sales. For healthcare, millennials will be a great catalyst for change and the movement towards consumerism. This generation has grown up with Uber, Amazon, Instagram and Facetime. They will demand a much more efficient and technology driven healthcare experience. They will push for a seamless and personalized experience, and their voice will become stronger and stronger over the years as they start consuming healthcare to a greater extent.
#4 Increased consolidations, mergers and partnerships
Given the changing dynamics of the healthcare system over the past few years, we have already seen significant mergers and consolidations in the industry. This trend will only be exacerbated in 2016 with increased competition, new money and new players coming into healthcare, racing to becoming the new and proven healthcare platform. We will continue to see health plans and systems buy each other, or merge within each vertical. We’ll also see completely new or non-traditional players enter or strengthen their position in healthcare via partnerships and/or acquisitions. Many of the current startups will merge, be purchased or partner with companies across the continuum of care.
#5 Telehealth moves beyond a 1-800 number
There’s been much hype around telehealth in 2015. The truth is, adoption of telehealth services is still low as many patients are not aware of their availability. Millennials will likely adopt this options much faster than other segments, but for this service to be truly valuable and top-of-mind, telehealth services need to be embedded into everyday patient care. In 2016, we will see new models and ways to embed telehealth into the patient journey from including telehealth options into online provider directories, to “prescribing” telehealth services and smart devices as follow-up care.
#6 How you choose a doctor will change
Finally, I believe Americans will start changing how they choose doctors in 2016. Online provider directories will include richer and more personalized information about each doctor or hospital. Pictures, videos, patient demographics, quality measures and reviews, out of pocket costs will all become table stakes for online directories. More advanced directories and apps will offer appointment scheduling capabilities, direct patient-to-doctor phone capabilities, advanced doctor recommendations based on personalized patient needs, and more. The way we choose and recommend doctors will become personal, easy and empowering based on technologies and techniques that have been used for decades in other consumer-based industries.