2018 was another year of rapid changes in the healthcare industry. Over the past twelve months, I’ve had fascinating conversations with executives in the provider and payer community and they have described the challenges they face and their visions for the future. One thing has become clear among everyone in the healthcare ecosystem: expectations are changing.
Patients are looking for a retail-like experience for their treatment, and sure enough, a number of new, innovative providers are gaining traction by leading with convenience and patient-centricity. Patients are embracing alternatives to the traditional doctor’s office or the local hospital. Unwilling to wait for an appointment, patients are eager for more responsive, high-quality treatment options.
Healthcare providers are becoming more innovative in an effort to improve the quality and efficiency of patient care while continuing to look for ways to reduce costs. Payers are exploring new approaches to improve their back-office systems and are willing to partner with third-party vendors to accelerate this improvement, rather than trying to develop everything in-house.
I am confident that this year will be full of important change in the industry and that these changes will touch the lives of millions. Of course, there is still a long way to go since the healthcare industry is historically slow to embrace change – it is often difficult to break through a culture that normally stays with the status quo. However, the desire for change is definitely there. If I were to list my top three predictions for trends in healthcare in 2019, they would include the following:
1) Health plans will get much more serious about improving member experience and predictability.
Health plans are eager to improve their member experience, partially because of the emergence of new consumer-centric plan models. As the market becomes more competitive with new entrants, traditional health plans will continue to partner with agile startups to deliver an improved member experience. These partnerships will enable health plans and startups to pilot projects and scale them quickly, leveraging the strengths of both organizations.
2) Employers are focusing on providing access to targeted healthcare solutions that meet specific therapeutic needs.
As of 2018, 83 percent of employees say healthcare is very or extremely important to/for staying in a job or changing a job. Given the importance of healthcare to their employees, and that the average company spends $10,000 on healthcare annually for each worker, employers will recognize the need to invest in specific solutions in areas where traditional networks fall short. These include programs for infertility, women’s health and behavioral health.
Guest post by Torben Nielsen, senior vice president of product at HealthSparq.
Significant policy changes are inevitably on the horizon for health care in 2017. Though the question marks about what is next for our industry seem endless, Americans are wondering how health care costs will change, and if their insurance carrier will continue to provide them with the coverage they need. One thing we know for certain is that health care industry disruptors will continue to innovate in a way that we can’t ignore. That’s why it’s important for health plans and hospitals alike to embrace the technology that could simplify the way people interact with the health care industry.
To that, here are my five predictions for the industry in 2017:
Artificial intelligence innovations will help people navigate the healthcare system.
From robots and chat bots, to increasing telehealth options, we’re expecting significant innovations in 2017 for both doctors and patients. On the hospital side, chat bots have the potential to streamline the processes that people often get caught up in when visiting their practitioner, or when dealing with insurance protocol. The chat bots of the future will be able to have meaningful conversation that will help people navigate the system, instead of confusing them. A member could say to their health plan, “I’m looking for a cheaper MRI,” and artificial intelligence can help with a more guided search.
Virtual reality will continue moving into the hospital side of healthcare.
With technology like Oculus Rift and HTC Vibe on the market, people around the world are getting used to the idea of virtual reality in health care, too, and we don’t expect that interest to die down anytime soon. Surgeons are already utilizing virtual reality to practice upcoming surgeries, and patients are beginning to see the benefits of this technology, too. For example, at the University of Southern California combat veterans experiencing PTSD are being treated using virtual reality gaming as a healing mechanism to help process trauma. As these tools continue to get smarter, both hospitals and patients will continue to see virtual reality extend into their care practices more regularly in the coming year.
Personalization of healthcare technology will help data transfers happen easier.
Block chain technology has potential to help secure EHR data and health plan member information in a way that streamlines the health care journey for both the patient and the provider. Healthcare processes and experiences can feel very stifled and complicated to all parties in the system (that’s why HealthSparq created #WhatTheHealthCare!) because hospitals and health systems are sitting on so much data that is not connected or easily shared. Data fluidity is a goal for the industry, and with new applications of block chain technology, the health care ecosystem may now see data transfers and fluidity happen much more simply, giving everyone a more holistic view of health care status, options and improvement opportunities.
Guest post by Chris Giancola, principal consultant at CSC.
Looking into what’s ahead, 2013 will be another year of compliance activities dominating the healthcare landscape. Mandates on the industry, from both the ARRA and ACA, are fully underway and stretching the financial and intellectual resources of healthcare providers and insurers across the country. Here are three major compliance pressures facing the industry this year:
ICD-10 – Though the U.S. Office of Health and Human Services delayed the ICD-10 compliance deadline to October 2014, it did so back in August 2012. This early action by HHS acknowledges the enormous scope of the challenge facing providers, HIT vendors and insurers that stands to impact every administrative process and workflow. Far beyond simply recoding claims, any process involving a diagnosis will materially change because of the higher degree of clinical specificity described by the ICD-10 code set, such as obtaining referrals and lab tests for patients, providing clinical decision support and e-prescribing.
Insurers and providers also will face the challenge of understanding how the code changes may impact their bottom line by determining the financial neutrality of any potential change in diagnoses and payment for treatment of those conditions. Providers relying on vendors with fixed or appointment-style upgrade schedules should consider as early adoption as possible to reduce the potential negative impact of these changes. There also will also be a period of overlap where both ICD-9 and ICD-10 code sets will need to be supported by all participants involved, increasing the complexity of the problems looming on the horizon.
Organizations that are late on their remediation timelines will increasingly look for solutions, like selective outsourcing and alternative technical solutions that will allow them to minimize the implementation risk and operating costs of achieving necessary compliance. But, if the ANSI X12 4010 to 5010 conversion was any indicator, these alternative solutions will be offered at a premium price.
Meaningful Use Stage 2 – Stage 2 makes much of the optional menu set of objectives in Stage 1 a part of the mandatory core set, meaning that those providers who deferred as many of the optional objectives as possible now face challenges in Stage 2 they can no longer avoid. Also, in 2014, penalties for noncompliance with Stage 2 will begin to take effect, and so 2013 will be the year for many providers to buy or build new capabilities, such as web-based and device-accessible portals to satisfy patient engagement objectives and to change clinical workflows to meet Stage 2’s objectives and gather new mandated quality measures.
In Stage 2, Eligible Physicians (EPs) must complete 17 core and three of six menu objectives for a total of 20 objectives. Eligible Hospitals (EHs) and Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) must complete 16 core and three of six menu objectives for a total of 19 objectives. Though Medicare or Medicaid incentive payments will offset some of the financial impact of implementing electronic health records, the impact to administrative and clinical staff, as well as to previously paper-based workflows, will be nontrivial.
Payment Reform – Many providers have already felt the financial impact of changes to their contracts with insurers that are implementing alternatives to the fee-for-service reimbursement models of the past. Bundled payments to providers for disease-state management will require higher degrees of care coordination and information sharing not only within delivery systems but across disparate organizations and affiliations.
Effectively managing referral networks will be a key success factor in the coming year. New payment contracts also typically require greater degrees of reporting to the insurer to ensure that quality of care is not being compromised, further increasing the burden on providers to gather, harmonize and report on clinical data previously written on paper or buried in unstructured text.
Compliance with these mandates, though not imposed by federal or state regulations, will grow to be a larger challenge as these new payment models mature and they represent a larger portion of providers’ revenue streams.
Chris Giancola is a principal consultant at technology consulting company CSC with a combination of technical skills, project and product management experience, business development successes, and healthcare domain expertise.