HIMSS recently published 2019 Healthcare Trends Forecast: The Beginning of a Consumer-Driven Reformation, a report that features commentary and analysis from leaders across HIMSS, Healthbox, Health 2.0 and PCHAlliance – each of whom have a birds-eye view of industry trends and the levers of change. By issuing this new annual forecast, HIMSS aims to equip industry leaders – clinicians, solution providers, payers, academics and policymakers alike – with insight and perspectives to inform better clinical and financial outcomes for all. 

Four key trends The report is organised around four key trends: digital health implications and applications, consumer impact, financial and demographic challenges and issues around data governance and policy. The report stated that digital health innovators will need to demonstrate greater tangible results. Digital health tools have been riding the peak of the hype cycle for several years now, but 2019 will be the year that digital health will need to answer for the way technology will increase access to care and narrow gaps in care and coverage, the report said. “Consumer pressure and the policy/regulatory environment will be big drivers of greater accountability,” the report said. “Government barriers to digital health innovation will continue to drop as the FDA Precertification (Pre-Cert) Pilot Program and CMS Innovation Center open the door to innovation.” At the same time, policymakers are going to be more aggressive about exploring policy changes that can speed up the time to market for tools that increase patient access, improve healthcare efficiencies, decrease provider burden and create new pathways for care delivery that don’t require hospital stays, the report said. “Against this backdrop, it will no longer be enough to bring to market the next bright, shiny gadget,” the HIMSS report stated. “Digital health tools will need to answer for the way technology will increase access to care and narrow gaps in care and coverage. There will be increased pressure to standardise systems for advanced interoperability to help improve the way information is shared and care is administered, and to do so more quickly than ever before.” 

Value-based care On another front, the HIMSS report said that consumer pressure will accelerate global reformation and value-based care. “Consumer demand for greater access to personalised and patient-centered care will increasingly favor those offering convenience, choice and, most importantly, cost transparency,” the report said. “In 2019, external market disruptors entering the healthcare space – companies like Amazon, Google and Walmart – will continue to apply their understanding of consumer expectations and machine learning tools to meet and exceed customer demands in ways that the traditional healthcare market still struggles with.” Though these companies have a sophisticated understanding of buyers’ needs and expectations, they come lacking a real understanding of the depth and complexity of healthcare delivery, the report said. At the same time, consumers will increasingly demand greater access to personalised and patient-centered care, as they shift their attention to those offering convenience, choice and, most importantly, cost transparency, the report added. “Healthcare systems are not known for their agility, and are challenged to develop solutions that attract and keep healthcare consumers, as well as offer exceptional consumer experiences that are as easy to navigate as online banking and retail interactions,” the report stated. “Unless they move to rapidly evolve and change to keep pace with the new disruptors entering the marketplace, healthcare systems will find themselves falling short in the race to attract a new marketplace of consumers unwilling to wait for the care experience they’ve come to expect.” 

New care delivery methods Another prediction from the report: Financial and demographic challenges will inspire new methods of care delivery. In 2018 it became clear traditional healthcare alone won’t bend the cost curve, and social determinants of health must be at the forefront of care, the HIMSS report said. In 2019, companies focusing on the social determinants of health and how to integrate mechanisms for providers to play a bigger role in triage, data-driven care, continuity of care and personalised action plans will find a more receptive environment, the report added. “Financial pressures on care providers will continue to increase as organisations are expected to do more with fewer resources and reduce costs while providing higher quality and safer care,” the report said. “The silver tsunami will continue to exacerbate these pressures, as 11,000 people per day in the US reach 65 years of age. This increasing volume of patients, many with complex health issues, will compound with loud consumer demands for transparency into how increased healthcare spend translates to high quality, efficient and accessible care.” To meet these demands, health systems, payers and providers will be forced to advance value-based healthcare delivery in ways that keeps costs low both for the industry and the consumer, the report stated. 

Privacy and security top of mind And finally, the HIMSS report predicted that escalating data debates will drive policy changes. In 2019, privacy and security will be top of mind, with policymakers looking to the private sector and their policy counterparts in other countries to figure out what policy changes need to be put into place to protect information sharing, the report explained. “Policymakers focusing on health information and technology will be focusing on potential policy changes with motivation from two areas: privacy and security,” the report said. “Cybersecurity will be a priority for healthcare policymakers as bad actors continue identifying healthcare as a target-rich environment to create uncertainty and/or make money.” Healthcare organisations the world over are struggling to provide the right information about the right patient to the right provider in a secure and timely manner because of the actions of bad actors – and they’re looking to policymakers to help them, the report said. “In 2019, policymakers will look to the private sector and their policy counterparts in other countries to figure out what policy changes need to be put into place to protect information sharing,” the report concluded. “Consumer privacy will also gain attention in 2019. As companies adjust to privacy changes in response to the General Data Protection Regulation, consumers and policymakers will be more aware of the varying levels of data privacy protections and policies.”  

This article first appeared in the global edition of Healthcare IT News

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