Ordinarily lists made in the New Year are predictions for the next 12 months. Predictions aside, I’d like to share with you six things that you can count on in healthcare during 2015.
#1 The Affordable Care Act is not going away.
Although skirmishes between Congress and the White House seem certain this year, neither repeal of the ACA nor withdrawal of its funding is likely in 2015. Additionally, repeal of the law will not fix the underlying problems the ACA was designed to correct. As the year progresses, your best response is to abandon survival mode by designing and implementing a proactive approach to help you and your patients thrive in the new environment.
#2 Concerns about controlling costs, providing value, and improving access to care will dominate the industry.
Contributors to this blog have often written that high quality, low cost providers ultimately will win. It’s clear reimbursements are not going up, and outcomes will determine compensation and profits as systems move from volume- to value-based payment models. We can point to certain markets where delivering the right care in the right setting is yielding results, and those markets will serve as models, but discussions of these issues will be ongoing this year.
#3 Patients are now in control.
Patients should have always been the most important part of the medical transaction. Now we’re witnessing a patient repositioning made possible by increasing transparency throughout the system. Patients have more information about quality outcomes and pricing than ever before, and with that information are able to make informed decisions about facilities and doctors. Patients are no longer willing simply to be treated; they also want to participate in their own healthcare, which could radically impact how medical teams work and are reimbursed.
#4 Integration will continue.
Integration in healthcare will continue on two fronts: consolidation among medical practices and hospitals, and integration of services. We will continue to see physicians moving into hospital practices and hospital mergers, but we will also see physician clinics merging to form larger clinics. As reimbursement models evolve, we will see more partnerships among hospitals and other healthcare providers. Horizontal integration linking multidisciplinary teams and vertical integration linking primary, secondary and tertiary care also will become more prevalent.
#5 A robust technology strategy is essential.
As technology continues to evolve, it will bring greater access. Mobile and wearable devices can assist with chronic disease management, extend service to underserved areas, and assist medical staff with diagnosis and treatment, leading to better outcomes and efficiency. With information readily available, the analysis of “big data” is possible, providing the ability to measure results and forecast trends on a macro level. The new technologies, however, will require increasingly sophisticated security strategies.
#6 Population health will continue to gather steam.
Expect to hear more discussion about population health, including the Community Health Needs Assessment required by the IRS every three years. Committee selection, data collection, analysis challenges, strategy development and implementation, as well as procuring outside funding will all be discussion topics within the industry.
As we discuss these issues during the year, perhaps it is advisable to remember the phrase coined by Dr. Don Berwick – “Triple Aim.” It reminds everyone in healthcare of the three “aims” or goals we’re trying to accomplish: better care for individuals, better health for populations, and lower costs for healthcare overall.
Have a great 2015!