Healthcare is at a major turning point as doctors and hospitals look for ways to improve health outcomes while meeting cost constraints.
Technological progress in the industry is more of a steady slogan than headline-making disruption, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t big things happening. Here are five important trends that will shape your healthcare experience this year and beyond.
Healthcare IT systems, which are currently shored up behind proprietary walls, will need to find ways to interact across the care spectrum. About 95% of healthcare providers say interoperability challenges limit their ability to transfer data from one medical center to another, according to a study by Premier.
Susan DeVore, CEO of Premier, a health care alliance, says that while technology created a large amount of e-records in recent years, those records are “not able to seamlessly talk to each other."
1. Digitally-enabled care is a must-have for hospitals and doctors in order to deliver the best care, but technology has been slow to infiltrate the medical world. It’s not about "disruption" in this industry, it’s about enhancement — and that’s what you’ll see more of in 2015.
2. Digital tools — from telemedicine to in-office software — will make healthcare more efficient, more cost-effective and, ultimately, result in healthier patients. Half of doctors believe e-visits could replace more than 10% of in-office patient appointments, and roughly 75% of doctors said they would prescribe an app to help patients manage chronic diseases such as diabetes.
3. Specialty drugs will dominate conversations about health costs this year. Niche treatments are expensive to develop and target a small portion of the population, which means they often carry high price tags. Only 1% to 3% of the U.S. population uses specialty drugs, yet spending on them is expected to account for 50% of drug payments by 2018.
That’s only one specialty treatment for one condition: when compounded, though, the effect could be huge. The average cost of filling a specialty drug prescription for a month is $1,800 compared with $54 for non-specialty drugs, such as antibiotics or anti-cholesterol medication, according to data from Express Scripts. At the same time, the number of patients filling specialty drug scripts is rising faster than the number filing for traditional drugs. The use of specialty medications increased 2.5% in 2013 versus a 0.5% gain for traditional prescriptions, Express Scripts found.
4. Transparency will become even more important in healthcare this year, especially when it comes to financial data. Services such as ZocDoc already provide access to doctor reviews from a quality and care perspective. More businesses like this will proliferate to help parse the reams of financial information that will become available.
5. Bundled payments are now being used by healthcare providers as a novel approach to cut costs without sacrificing care.
Bundled payments group all the services a patient receives during an episode of care under one fee. Assuming a patient is getting knee replacement surgery, a hospital, possibly in conjunction with other providers, will set a lump-sum cost that covers your whole course of care: pre-op, hospital stay, surgery, anesthesia, physical therapy, and follow-up.