5 Ways Healthcare will Change in 2019

 
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2018 was a transformative year for healthcare. From big tech’s entrance to the field to the rise of virtual care to Congress warming to reimbursing innovative, proven models, the healthcare industry has started to see some major shifts in the space. The importance placed on value-based care has also been a major driver for industry change for patients, providers and payors. The opportunity to improve patient outcomes while decreasing cost will drive the industry forward and help reshape legacy practices.

In a speech at an Alliance for Connected Care telehealth policy forum in November, CMS Administrator Seema Verma spoke about how “relentless innovation is a crucial driver in creating value across all industries.” With that sentiment in mind, here are five trends that will impact the healthtech landscape in 2019.

Value-based care arrangements will provide opportunity for bipartisanship in 2019

In the current political landscape, the tendency toward partisanship is strong, but the American people want Congress to work together, particularly when it comes to healthcare. Republicans and Democrats should be able to find common ground with value-based care arrangements that incentivize providers to do what’s best for the patient rather than doing the most amount of “things” (i.e. tests, procedures, etc.) to the patient.

According to an NBC News and Wall Street Journal report, healthcare was the №1 issue for voters heading to the polls in 2018 — and voter turnout as a percentage of the voting age population was greater than any midterm election since 1914. Both parties will need to come together to get things done that address their constituents’ concerns about healthcare.

The good news is that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is asking Congress to enable them to make value-based arrangements accessible. Passage of the bipartisan Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalizations Act (H.R. 6502), or RUSH Act, is an example of how Congressional leaders can work together on a value-based solution that saves the government billions of dollars while delivering better care to patients.

Providers and tech-related services will increase

Tech-enabled medical services are receiving a lot of attention right now; recent acquisitions and the other deals reportedly in the works point to a growing trend. In June, Anthem completed an acquisition of Aspire Health, the nation’s largest provider of non-hospice, community-based palliative care for people facing a serious illness. Landmark Health, a risk-based provider group that provides home-based medical care for patients with complex health needs, was rumored to be for sale early in the year, and Amazon paid nearly $1 billion for pharmacy startup PillPack.

The pace of innovation has traditionally been set by providers, who have more flexibility than payors in creating systemic change. However, this trend is shifting, and tech-enabled services are leading the way. More tech services, such as Aspire’s predictive clinical and claims-based patient algorithms, allows providers to take greater risks at lower cost, which pushes payors and other traditional services toward embracing — and funding — innovation.

Data will transform how providers make decisions

For a long time in healthcare there has been great hope that data will revolutionize healthcare. While it hasn’t quite happened yet, 2019 is when we will really start to see data used in ways that are transformative. The growing implementation of technology developed for healthcare is creating the opportunity to use clinical data in more sophisticated ways, allowing clinicians to make better decisions and deliver better care.

For example at Call9, we’ve developed SNF Assist, a first-of-its-kind patient care data platform based on our learnings from delivering tech-enabled services in nursing homes. We’re able to leverage technology to provide nursing home administrators and operators with analytics to inform operational and medical decisions. In facilities that we currently service, SNF Assist equips them with more visibility into facility operations in order to deliver better care, reduce Emergency Department transports and costs, and ultimately drive further revenue to the facility. Facilities that we cannot yet deliver our services to are able to use SNF Assist to get a better understanding of their patient population.

Payors will embrace technology innovation more than ever before

Companies like Bright Health, Devoted, Oscar and Clover are continuing to attract a lot of investment from the venture and private equity world because they’re seeking to offer a better user experience while also collecting and utilizing data in ways that will drive better outcomes — at lower costs. This will create competitive and creative pressures on entrenched payors to embrace new care solutions and otherwise be more nimble.

Private partnerships with healthcare providers will increase

Social determinants of health often prevent certain populations from accessing care in a timely and cost effective manner. Take transportation, for example: millions of Americans miss or delay medical appointments because they don’t have a ride. However, the shift to value-based care, coupled with a willingness of companies across industries to integrate technologies into each others’ platforms, is creating new and interesting collaborations to address some of these disparities.

Lyft is one example of a company that has collaborated with different organizations to provide access to transportation. In November, we announced a partnership to provide an enhanced transportation experience for family members visiting patients living in the nursing homes where Call9 operates. The partnership was a unique opportunity to integrate our resources to strengthen communication with family members and offer them reliable access to their loved ones in an emergency situation. More companies will seek collaborations like this that create value and improve the customer experience.

A version of this post first appeared as an op-ed in Healthcare Informatics.

Ashley Langan