Top health industry issues of 2015

As the health sector moves beyond the Affordable Care Act and onto consumer-centered, digitally enabled care, here are the top 10 issues dominating the agenda in 2015.

Issue 1: Do-it-yourself healthcare

Issue 2: Leap from mobile app to medical device

Issue 3: Balancing privacy and convenience

Issue 4: High-cost patients spark innovations

Issue 5: Putting a price on positive outcomes

Issue 6: Open everything to everyone

Issue 7: Getting to know the newly insured

Issue 8: Scope of practice expands

Issue 9: Redefining well-being for millennials

Issue 10: Partner to win

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HRI’s top 10 health industry issues

Issue 1: Do-it-yourself healthcare
US physicians and consumers are ready to embrace a dramatic expansion of the high-tech, personal medical kit. Wearable tech, smartphone-linked devices and mobile apps will become increasingly valuable in care delivery.

Issue 2: Leap from mobile app to medical device
A proliferation of approved and portable medical devices in patients’ homes, and on their phones, makes diagnosis and treatment more convenient, redoubling the need for strong information security systems.

Issue 3: Balancing privacy and convenience
Privacy will lose ground to convenience in 2015 as patients adopt digital tools and services that gather and analyze health information.

Issue 4: High-cost patients spark innovations
The soaring cost of care for Medicare and Medicaid “dual eligibles,” aging boomers and patients with co-morbidities will foster creative care delivery and management systems.

Issue 5: Putting a price on positive outcomes
With high-priced new products and specialty drugs slated to hit the market in 2015, we will see increasing demand for new evidence and definitions of positive health outcomes.

Issue 6: Open everything to everyone
New transparency initiatives targeting clinical trial data, real-world patient outcomes and financial relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical companies will improve patient care and open up new opportunities.

Issue 7: Getting to know the newly insured
2015 will be a revelatory year for the US health sector as a portrait of the newly-insured emerges, fostering better care management programs and shifting marketing strategies.

Issue 8: Scope of practice expands
Physician “extenders” are becoming the first line of care for many patients, as doctors delegate tasks, monitor patients digitally and enter into risk-based payment models.

Issue 9: Redefining well-being for millennials
As the economy rebounds and baby boomers retire, employers and insurers look for fresh ways to engage, retain and attract the next generation of health consumers.

Issue 10: Partner to win
Joint ventures, open collaboration platforms and non-traditional partnerships will push healthcare companies out of the comfort zone in 2015 toward new competitive strategies.

2015 Top Issues – Introduction

More wired, consumer-oriented and innovative than ever before, the $2.8 trillion US healthcare industry is undergoing profound transformation. New entrants, from retailers to technology companies, are arriving with disruption on their minds as the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continue to ripple through the sector. In 2015, the healthcare sector will begin to look and feel like other industries, catering to audiences expecting one-click service. A true market is slowly taking shape.

Consumers are leading the way, bearing more of the cost of their own care – and making more decisions. “Our members and patients are not satisfied with just coming in and meeting with their doctor. They want their lab results on their phone an hour after they leave the medical center,” said Bryan Kissinger, executive director of enterprise shared services at Kaiser Permanente, which in October 2014 held its first “design sprint” aimed at discovering creative health uses for wearable devices.

The industry is developing products and services destined for sale directly to consumers, from wearable devices and mobile apps to health plans to be sold on private and public exchanges. They are devising innovative – and cost-efficient – ways of caring for the nation’s most expensive patients. Health systems and insurers are learning more about the 10 million Americans newly insured through the ACA and how they can compete for their business.

Millennials, raised on technology, are nudging employers to take a more expansive view of “health” benefits. Traditional healthcare companies are seeking partners to develop new products and services, often hitching healthcare know-how to tech and consumer prowess. From drug and device makers to state and federal governments, innovation and technology are propelling healthcare’s shift toward transparency. Wider availability to data opens the door for new approaches on clinical trials.

In 2015, the future will come into sharper focus. Unprecedented data sharing and transparency will heighten the tension between privacy and convenience.   New technology will demand new regulatory frameworks and clarified rules. Shifts in care will prompt states – and healthcare organizations - to revisit scope of practice regulations that enable non-physicians to do more.

Yet even as the industry contends with these emerging issues, healthcare organizations must not neglect the demands of today, from reducing hospital readmissions to fully integrating data from electronic medical records.  In the near term, many healthcare organizations must straddle two worlds.

Each fall, HRI surveys 1,000 US consumers and interviews industry experts to identify the top health industry issues for the coming year. Key findings for 2015 include:

  • Consumers remain concerned about the privacy of their health data. At a time when data breaches regularly make headlines, 68% of survey respondents said they were concerned about the security of data stored in smartphone health apps; 76% said they were concerned about the security of their medical data.
  • Consumers have mixed feelings about pharmaceutical and life sciences companies’ payments to clinicians as regulators demand greater health system transparency. Industry should  prepare for more transparency as these pressures grow from regulators and consumers.
  • Many consumers are ready for non-physician caregivers to do more. Seventy-five percent told HRI that they were open “extenders” such as nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants performing a wide range of services.
  • Physicians are interested in DIY healthcare products and services, perhaps even more so than consumers. One-fifth of consumers said they would use a home urinalysis device. But nearly half of physicians said they would use data from such a device to prescribe medication or decide whether a patient should be seen.
  • Millennials define benefits broadly, emphasizing work-life balance over health benefits. This shift in attitude will force employers to rethink benefits strategies and establish new ways of keeping their workforce engaged and feeling rewarded.

As the industry transforms, health organizations need to be ambidextrous and nimble. Their survival and success depend upon understanding their roles in a transparent, wired, consumer-centric future. Heading into 2015, there’s evidence this is beginning to happen. For the first time since HRI began asking, US consumers ranked hospitals and healthcare second only to banks in customer satisfaction, a dramatic leap forward compared to previous years. The ground – and the $2.8 trillion in US healthcare spending - is shifting. In 2015, the industry will feel this shift deeply as it is forced to adjust to a growing New Health Economy.

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