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Nine Healthcare Business Trends for 2019

By Clive Riddle, December 14, 2018 

Here’s nine trends to keep a close watch on as we stand on the precipice of 2019:

1. The Year of SDOH

Health Plans, Health Systems and Public Agencies all will invest more heavily in Social Determinants of Health initiatives for their at risk populations. The number, scope, and resources involved in programs will significantly escalate, using a wide range of approaches. Some will be touted as quite successful, some will be deemed as failures, many will need much more time before conclusions can be drawn.

2. Continued Uptick in Uninsured

The Commonwealth Fund cites “The uninsured rates among lower-income adults rose from 20.9 percent in 2016 to 25.7 percent in March 2018.” The news won’t get better in 2019. The ongoing federal chipping away at the ACA in various forms will continue to yield a rising rate in the uninsured.

3. Much Ado About Prescriptions

PBMs, Specialty Drugs, and Pharmaceutical price hikes have been everyone’s punching bag. And the punching will continue with much noise in 2019. But what further policy changes might one expect out of Washington with the current climate? And just released National Health Expenditure data indicates “per capita prescription drug spending slightly decreased (down 0.3%) for the first time since 2012.” While Rx costs are projected to be troublesome in the coming years, the current stall in costs will likely stall momentum for actual change.

4. Amazon and CVS Will Be Busy Bees

CVS and Aetna are now out of the gate, and have already put forth transformational plans.Amazon isn’t just positioning for the pharmacy arena – they’re into healthcare tech and much more, let alone their venture with their employer driven triumvirate with Berkshire and JP Morgan.

5. Increased Focus on Million Dollar+ Claims

Even though general healthcare costs are increasing in the lower single digits, the real high end is not finding a ceiling. Million-dollar+ medical claims increase 87 percent from 2014-2017. Technological and clinical advances will keep pushing this forward, and an increasing amount of attention will be paid on how to deal with the highest end claims. 

6. EHR: Physician Pushback and Response

A Medical Economics magazine article this month starts off with: “It’s no secret that dissatisfaction with EHR systems has been a major concern for physicians. In fact, several recent surveys report as much as a 25 to 30 percent unhappiness level among doctors and practices.”  The pushback will not subside in 2019, and vendors have a major opportunity to promote how they can make physician’s work lives easier, if they truly can come up with some innovative responses. 

7. Employee Cost Sharing: Large Group and Small Group In Different Directions

The Commonwealth Fund reported this month that “premium and deductible costs amounted to nearly 12 percent of median income in 2017. Added together, the total cost of premiums to workers and potential spending on deductibles for both single and family policies climbed to $7,240 a year in 2017.” While e cost sharing in its many forms just continues to exact a growing burden on employees, large groups are shifting strategies away from increased cost sharing, while the small group market may see no respite in 2019. 

8. Cybersecurity Stakes Rise as Healthcare Data Breaches Continue

Its not very risk to predict high risk of more major healthcare data breaches in 2019. Healthcare cybersecurity investments will continue to grow in 2019.

9. Value Based Healthcare is Everywhere

The challenge in 2019: to find a healthcare organization that doesn’t have the words value-based emblazoned throughout its communications.

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