What Healthcare Could Look Like in Five to Ten Years
We are nearing an inflection point in the delivery of healthcare that will redefine how most of us receive medical services. The market demand for healthcare services is about to explode, and the supply of caregivers cannot meet this demand. The imbalance of demand to supply with the constraints of limited budgeted dollars, redefines the level of medical care and types of services provided. Here are a few changes we could see on a national level:
- Hospitals will consolidate and capture market share based upon geographic boundaries. They will be responsible and at-risk for the care of a patient population within their defined geographic area.
- Not-for-profit hospitals will no longer exist. All hospitals will be considered for-profit and taxed respectively.
- The number of hospital beds will stop growing and over time contract due to the tightening of reimbursement. Care delivery is directed further away from the acute care setting, and closer to a patient’s home.
- High tech capital equipment purchases will decline. Healthcare delivery systems will leverage what equipment they have, and centralize it in strategic areas to optimize service to the larger population. With a captive patient population market, healthcare delivery systems will drive patient volume optimizing the use of the equipment.
- Care is coordinated in a hub and spoke model. On the furthest outreaches of the delivery system, care is delivered through telemedicine and retail clinics.
- Patients are navigated through the healthcare delivery system in a methodical manner gradually towards the acute care facility at the center of the hub. The acute care facility is the highest cost of care and the lowest profit margin for a delivery system. The objective of the delivery system is to ensure only those patients that medically require acute care service receive the appropriate level of treatment. The majority of the population receives medical services in a telemedicine and/or ambulatory setting.
- General physicians and specialist not employed by the healthcare system will either ration or not treat patients with Medicaid and Medicare coverage. They will be looking for the self-pay, private insurance or patients willing to pay a premium for a concierge medical service.
- The delivery of care will be slow for patients using government insurance. Healthcare delivery systems will manage the cost of delivering medical services based upon the level of resources and reimbursement.
- Medicare and Medicaid intermediary payers will become extinct. The government will directly take over the claims and payment process.
- The number of private insurance companies will diminish. Only a few financially strong organizations thrive in limited markets.
- The general population will adapt to the commodity model of healthcare service delivery and gravitate to taking better care of themselves through diet, exercise, and lifestyle. This is the most attractive option compared to the treatment of medical a condition within the healthcare delivery system.
The approach to healthcare in the near future is not gloom in doom. It is just different as the market shifts to serving a larger community with less resources and lower levels of reimbursement. We will ultimately see a two-tier system similar to the United Kingdom. Healthcare reform over time could create a further divide between socioeconomic classes versus bringing them together in a homogeneous manner.