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A Tour of 2019 Healthcare Predictions

By Clive Riddle, January 4, 2019 

We recently released our own 2019 healthcare prognostications, and now it’s time to take a tour of a selected healthcare weather forecasts for the year ahead, on a variety of fronts. 

First for a general overview, we stop at the PwC Health Research Institute’s 13th annual report on the year ahead, with six healthcare trends to watch in 2019

  1. Connected health devices and digital therapies will become integrated into care delivery and the regulatory process for drug and device approvals, with several new products coming to market
  2. Healthcare organizations will have to make major capital and training investments in artificial intelligence robotics, automation and data analytics in order to keep pace.
  3. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will continue to create tax savings for healthcare organizations while creating new challenges. 
  4. The healthcare industry is ready for a disruptor like Southwest, the budget airline provider was to that industry. 
  5. The pace of healthcare private equity investment will accelerate 
  6. Republican changes to the ACA will shift the law's winners and losers. Providers are on the losing end of most of these changes.

Also, providing an overall view is CareMore’s Sachin H. Jain in Forbes magazine with these: 10 Healthcare Industry Predictions for 2019:

  1. Humanism and humanity in healthcare will make a real comeback.
  2. The epidemic of loneliness will take center stage.
  3. Medicare Advantage will be seen as a template for the healthcare system of the future
  4. Quality measurement will focus on what happens in the exam room.
  5. The health care industry will make progress on new models for drug pricing.
  6. We will finally learn what Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan are up to.
  7. Tech companies will get into the health care delivery business.
  8. More buzzwords: I’m not sure what language mashups we can expect next year, but rest assured they’ll generate plenty of conferences and spam emails.
  9. Another unlikely, head-scratching mega-merger will occur.
  10. We will all keep our new year’s resolutions: Each of us will lose fifteen pounds. We will all read a book a week. We’ll learn Mandarin, remember to call our grandparents, wash the dog more often and write that mystery novel about the doctor who uncovers a crime syndicate operating out of the hospital cafeteria 

One more overview entry on the tour comes from the 2019 HCEG Top 10 by the Healthcare Executive Group 

  1. Data & Analytics: Leveraging data (especially clinical) to manage health and drive individual, provider and payer decisions.
  2. Total Consumer Health: Improving members’ overall medical, social, financial, and environmental well-being.
  3. Population Health Services: Operationalizing community-based health strategy, chronic care management, driving clinical integration, and addressing barriers to health such as social determinants.
  4. Value-based Payments: Transitioning to and targeting specific medical conditions to manage cost and improve quality of care.
  5. The Digital Healthcare Organization: HSAs, portals, patient literacy, cost transparency, digital payments, CRM, wearables and other patient-generated data, health monitoring, and omni-channel access/distribution.
  6. Rising Pharmacy Costs: Implementing strategies to address growth of pharma costs along with benefits to quality of care and to total healthcare costs.
  7. External Market Disruption: New players like Amazon, Chase, Apple, Walmart, and Google.
  8. Operational Effectiveness: Implementing lean quality programs, process efficiency (with new core business models), robotics automation, revenue cycle management, real-time/near-time point of sales transactions, etc.
  9. Opioid Management: Developing strategies for identifying and supporting individuals and populations struggling with substance abuse/addiction or at risk of addiction.
  10. Cybersecurity: Protecting the privacy and security of consumer information to maintain consumer trust in sharing data 

Here’s a venture capital perspective on the healthcare industry from Venrock, featured in Fortune magazine: 10 Health Care Predictions for 2019 From a Pair of Venture Gurus 

  1. More payer consolidation
  2. Physician-led Accountable Care Organizations will grow rapidly
  3. Doctors get less dissatisfied
  4. Interoperability becomes interoperable: Five years after being declared successful, forces will finally come together to lead breakthroughs on cross health system and platform interoperability. 
  5. Consolidation in digital health
  6. We think that we are near peak hype cycle for insurance technology. 2019 is likely to be a year of toe stubbing for many. 
  7. Dialysis disrupted: Just as Sears has been replaced by home delivery, dialysis centers will be supplanted too. 
  8. Telemedicine takes off
  9. PBM disruption talk becomes reality
  10. Real progress with new DNA sequencing platforms 

Turning toward technology, CIO Magazine offers Healthcare technology markets: 5 predictions for 2019: 

  1. Health systems are investing in specific programs such as telehealth and remote monitoring. While these initiatives gather momentum, other digital health programs are struggling to emerge from pilot deployment and also face competing priorities for discretionary budgets.
  2. AI will make steady progress but will struggle with adoption gaps
  3. Big tech is yet to figure out its play for healthcare markets, with one possible exception (Apple Watch)
  4. Digital health startups will face a continuing struggle for growth and stability
  5. Blockchain will remain a solution looking for a problem 

On the policy front, Morning Consult offer thse Top 5 Health Policy Predictions for 2019

As cost of health care continues rising, states and industry set to act 

  1. Affordable Care Act: A ruling from a federal judge finding the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional has cast uncertainty on the future of the nation’s health care system — and reframed national debate on health reform ahead of the 2020 elections.
  2. CMS waiver guidance: Armed with a majority, House Democrats are poised to probe how the Trump administration has handled the ACA during the last two years
  3. Drug-pricing policy: Addressing the cost of prescription drugs is sure to continue dominating health priorities in 2019, although there is a long road from bipartisan commitment to reducing prices — to bipartisan consensus on how best to do so.
  4. Shift toward value-based payment structures: Increasing pressure on hospitals, which contributed to one-third of total health care spending last year, could drive a shift toward value-based payment models next year — a top priority in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Choice and Competition 2018 report.
  5. Digital therapeutics and e-health: After years of being just within reach, digital therapeutics and e-health initiatives stand to finally emerge in in the industry and transform care delivery next year. 

Next, we’ll consider employer benefit trends, with the selections of Mercer thought leader predictions posted here and here: 

  1. AI everywhere!  Healthcare will be the next industry to be transformed by AI. 
  2. Account-based plans create buzz.  
  3. Personalization of health care. 
  4. Value on investment: The new yardstick for benefits will be how they affect employees’ perception of their employer. 
  5. Transparency in Rx pricing.  
  6. Getting family-friendly fast. 
  7. Extreme claims get real.   A number of factors are driving an increase in both the prevalence and the size of extreme claims
  8. More stop loss. With the severity and frequency of catastrophic claims, employers will up their stop loss insurance levels and those that don’t buy it now will reconsider. 
  9. More outsourcing.  HR and health and wellbeing functions will increasingly be outsourced t
  10. Midsized employers doing something really different.  While jumbo employers are typically the trailblazers, this year midsized employers will take the lead with a couple of truly radical benefit strategies:
  11. Moderate cost growth allows longer-term focus. 
  12. Big things for behavioral health Change is happening in the behavioral health care delivery system.
  13. Specialty drugs will command attention. 
  14. Rx management gets yet more complicated. PBMs, carriers, pharma companies, and wholesalers will continue to face intense scrutiny regarding profits, delivery models and alignment (or lack of alignment) with plan sponsor goals.
  15. Employers mix it up with clinical services. 
  16. The issue of bill coding will surface. As doctors and hospitals become health systems, they are hiring coding experts at an increasingly rapid rate as a means of maximizing reimbursements. 

Finally, let’s end the tour peeking into pharmaceuticals, as CFO magazine features Deloitte’s Greg Reh in Four Trends That Could Shape Life Sciences in 2019 

  1. Greater scrutiny over drug pricing. 2018 was one of the biggest years for policy efforts to reduce drug prices and out-of-pocket expenses for patients. 
  2. Increased interest in contracts that demonstrate value. The launch of several gene and cell therapies has been a catalyst to advance the discussion of alternative payment models. 
  3. The declining return on investment for R&D. A Deloitte analysis on the ROI of R&D among 12 large-cap biopharma companies portrays a steep decline over the nine years that the analysis has been performed.
  4. Evolving regulatory frameworks and collaboration between industry and regulators. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) pre-certification program, which launched in late 2017, is an example of how collaboration between industry and regulators can drive more self-regulation that is rooted in a culture of quality, organizational excellence, and performance monitoring. 


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