The healthcare and wellness industry has had quite a busy and interesting past year, certainly highlighted by the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Affordable Care Act this past June. The changes this law will spur, coupled with advances in technology and consumer empowerment, will continue to drastically reshape our healthcare and wellness landscape. Throughout this past year familiar themes rang clear, giving us insights to what will play vital roles for healthcare in our future. Below are my top ten trends for 2013:
1) Technology Paves the Way: No doubt that technology will continue to pave the way for a better overall healthcare system, providing a more efficient and effective experience between consumers, healthcare providers, insurers, and healthcare and wellness businesses. Of course technology will enable our antiquated processes to be better but technology will also propel consumers to have more engaged and interactive experiences with not only their doctors and providers but healthcare brands. As the consumerization of technology continues, look for mobile, digital and cloud technologies to rise in importance.
2) Industry Adapts to New Healthcare Bill: The nine-member Supreme Court made Obamacare official this past June, sending practically everyone involved in healthcare and wellness scrambling to understand and adjust to the coming changes. The bill’s primary goal—to provide more Americans affordable healthcare and reduce overall costs—is a noble effort. But there are a lot of changes in that 2,400-page bill that will have many ripple effects across the industry. Look for businesses to continue to focus on how it will impact their daily business, customers and bottom line. Healthcare businesses must continue to focus on how it will impact them and be proactive in connecting, engaging and informing their consumers of any changes, how it impacts them, and how they can benefit.
3) Awareness & Prevention Continues its Focus: The simple principles of awareness and prevention will continue to be at the forefront, as chronic diseases account for many of our healthcare issues and costs. According to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, just 5% of the U.S. population account for more than 50% of costs. Businesses and organizations from employers to insurers to retailers will institute health and wellness programs to encourage better health and prevention. It’s a tried and true formula. Awareness and prevention are probably the best frontline defense against poor health and cutting unnecessary costs across the board.
4) Renewed Focus on the Empowered Consumer: There’s a fundamental shift in consumer behavior to a “do-it-myself” empowerment mentality, propelled by today’s innovative technologies. And this cultural change will get a boost as healthcare providers and businesses look to shift more responsibility to employees to help offset rising costs and put a focus on shared responsibility. As a Wall Street Journal article recently noted, look for “definitely less paternalism in healthcare offerings.” As consumers increasingly turn to self-service technologies and channels, the entire healthcare industry has a tremendous opportunity to reach, engage and interactive with today’s empowered consumer.
5) CMS Star Ratings Rise in Importance: Healthcare insurance providers stand to make billions in bonus payments if they meet a certain rating in the government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Star Ratings program. The program essentially rates providers based on 53 performance measures—many of which are tied to screening services and managing chronic issues—and can receive bonuses for meeting four or more stars. Look for providers to extend services to consumers to help better manage chronic issues through self-service offerings and solutions, as well as other programs.
6) Retail Plays an Increased Role: From pharmacies to in-store clinics and healthcare kiosks, retail establishments from Walgreens to Walmart to Safeway will play vital roles to connect with consumers for better healthcare access, awareness and treatments. Consumers are still frequenting brick-n-mortar stores; connecting with them while they are there offers great opportunities for healthcare providers, advertisers and the retail locations. Reach consumers where they are… in retail.
7) Mobile, Mobile & Mobile: Despite the rise of retail, consumers are becoming dependent on smartphones. Gartner predicts that by 2013 mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common device to access the web. If mobile isn’t a top priority at your company it better be real quickly. Increasingly, consumers, healthcare providers, and health and wellness businesses are turning to mobile and digital communities to connect, learn and engage. There is great opportunity for healthcare professionals, retailers and advertisers to develop innovative strategies to reach and engage with consumers when they are on the go. This opens tremendous opportunities for the entire health ecosystem.
Consumer’s Online & Offline Worlds Merge: Despite having a separate mobile and retail section in this list the need for creating a holistic consumer experience will be a necessity moving forward. Yes, mobile is increasingly becoming part of consumer’s lives. But they are still frequenting retail stores, using their laptops, social networking, and moving constantly between their offline and online worlds. So businesses need to be thinking about the complete consumer experience across all touch points. Take, for instance, CEO of National Retail Federation Matt Shay’s comment in last week’s USA Today: “What we’re going to see is that the two (online/offline) become further and further indistinguishable from one another. Everyone is playing everywhere now.”
9) Personalization& Relevancy Drives Consumer Experience: The rise of digital, social and mobile – along with the empowerment of consumers – is directly tied to the growing trend of consumers wanting personalized and relevant communications from brands. No more cookie-cutter approach. Consumers know you have a wealth of data about them and they expect you use it to customize to their preferences and needs. And relevancy and context are frequently mistaken for targeting and personalization, but they are not the same thing. Take, for instance, our SoloHealth Station consumer kiosk. It’s contextually relevant because we reach, target and personalize to consumers when they are thinking about their healthcare. They are engaged for more than four minutes per session because it matters!
10) Traditional “Lines” of Business Continues to Blur: The merger and partnership of insurers and hospital operators crosses a traditional healthcare divide. But look for this trend to continue as the industry restructures and overhauls healthcare operations to cut costs and make way for better efficiencies. Business will collaborate and share data and processes. What once seemed like strange bedfellows now looks like smart, streamlined business.