With already a month of 2017 behind us, it is clear that this year is going to be full of monumental changes in every American business sector. Healthcare is no exception, and between a new policy landscape and further technological innovations, there is much uncertainty as well as the promise of new opportunities. In December, the consulting firm PwC outlined its predictions for the top health industry issues of 2017, and through adaption, innovation, and building new programs, health organizations will have to learn how to address the shifts that are coming. The following summarizes the top ten changes predicted by PwC predicts and reviewed by Healthcare IT News in an article linked to in the citations of this post:
- The Uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act’s Fate: President Trump has made it clear that one of his priorities is repealing and replacing the ACA, but that would add 20 million to the ranks of the uninsured. Hospitals could therefore experience a dramatic increase in uncompensated care and insurers would lose $1.9 trillion in federal subsidies. Healthcare organizations will need to map out gains and losses around multiple scenarios to account for whatever challenges a change to the ACA may bring.
- Pharmaceuticals Strategically Partnering with Patients: Pharma needs to engage with patients to justify prices and satisfy regulators that they are providing the best value. Pharmaceutical companies offering services to providers that help patients collect, analyze, and understand their own health data and conditions may have more success with regulators who are increasingly focusing on patient engagement.
- Greater Emphasis on Value-Based Payment: Beginning in 2017, the training wheels for risk-based arrangements are easing off; providing higher quality, lower cost care is the future, and it will require an analytics-driven approach to deliver customized care management solutions for individual patients. This will necessitate strong technology infrastructure, clinical skills, and time to build such programs.
- Modernizing Payment: By 2020, it is predicted that the amount of credit card transactions that fund healthcare providers will double, meaning health systems will need to modernize payment options. Additionally, hackers are targeting health systems more than ever, so healthcare providers need to create secure payments to keep up with modernity while building consumer trust.
- Updating Healthcare’s Relationship to Technology: The healthcare industry lags behind other industries when it comes to utilizing emerging technologies. Employing more engineers and designers, investing in cybersecurity, and considering how to incorporate artificial intelligence, drones, and virtual reality could help the industry to compete with financial services and retail companies for workers.
- Invention Sparked by the Battle Against Infectious Diseases: Close collaboration between healthcare providers and public agencies to overcome market barriers are key to the funding, expedited process, and ultimate success of pharmaceutical and device makers in their attempts to fight infectious diseases like the Zika virus. Millions of dollars will be utilized for projects aimed at combating the spread of these diseases, such as mobile technology that can locate and diagnose patients.
- Nutrition Takes Center Stage: Health organizations are starting to focus more on nutrition to prevent costly medical problems and improve the overall health of the populations they serve. Recognizing retailers, tech companies, and even entertainment companies that can address consumers’ diet-related issues is key to promoting healthy lifestyles.
- Drug Companies will Ease off Prices: After years of pressure, the biopharmaceutical industry’s drug pricing practices will likely be restricted in 2017. Companies will need to commit to transparency and refrain from frequent price increases in order to help rebuild trust with consumers, health care professionals, and insurers.
- New Partnerships and Collaborations: Between a shift to pay for value over volume and a growing interest in wellness, organizations are being driven to build new capabilities quickly to stay competitive. This means more joint ventures, partnerships, and strategic alliances.
- Preparing Medical Students to Enter a Value-Based World: Switching focus to value-based care will impact how medicine is practiced. The newest experts in medicine will be trained in quality and safety improvement and the importance of working with cross-discipline teams, offering a broader perspective of value-based care.
Whether you like change or despise it, the best thing one can do is to be prepared for it. Hopefully, the changes in the healthcare industry and the modern world will help move medicine forward in a direction that better benefits us all.
 McCarthy, Jack, “PwC’s top 10 healthcare industry issues for 2017,” Healthcare IT News, Dec. 19, 2016, http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/pwcs-top-10-healthcare-industry-issues-2017