I attended and spoke at the Health2.0 Conference last week in Santa Clara, California. As always, it was a tremendous event with informative content, engaging speakers, and, of course, plenty of speculation on the future of our healthcare industry. Although it’s hard to select only a handful, below are five predictions I believe we will see take shape in the next year as our industry continues to evolve and progress towards a more efficient and effective operating model.
1. Patient “Engagement” & “Empowerment” is Central: This was probably the most shared theme threaded throughout the conference. Engaging and empowering patients to be active in their healthcare in order to produce better health outcomes and reduce costs. This encompasses everything from engaging with consumers on multiple platforms like mobile and digital, to providing convenient self-service tools, applications and services, to providing better education and consumer-focused participation in healthcare. We’ve heard often from savvy marketer’s about today’s “Empowered Consumer” becoming central to business and about utilizing data to better understand and personalize the consumer experience. The same will be so with healthcare consumers and patients.
2. Knowledge Sharing will Scale: Technology platforms exist today that can make the dream of ubiquitous sharing of data, knowledge and information a reality. Unlike the days of old when knowledge was handed down only between professionals, technology will enable the sharing of knowledge at scale—not only for medical professionals but also patients and consumers. Similar to how social media networks like Twitter and Facebook helped lead to the “democratization” of media, technology and sharing will lead to the democratization of healthcare and medical knowledge.
3. Consumer-Directed Healthcare is the Future: Whether consumers like it or not, they’ll be shopping for and buying their own healthcare insurance in the future. And I’m not talking about just those applicable to the current ACA public healthcare marketplace; I’m talking about the growth of private exchanges. Employees currently covered through their company plans will find themselves shopping for and selecting insurance with company-sponsored vouchers and dollars. And if you really stop and think about it, it makes sense. It’s all about free-market principles. Private healthcare exchanges are already being used by small and mid-sized businesses. And we continue to see big organizations like Sears, Darden Restaurants and Walgreens transition to private exchanges for their employees. I look for the day when most all companies, small and large, are out of the insurance game and deploy employee-directed healthcare insurance practices. It’ll be part employee empowerment and part cost-savings.
4. Standardization of Electronic Health Records (EHR): It’s a no-brainer that digitalization of data delivers better access, efficiencies and effectiveness. Problem is we don’t have a standard yet; many different siloed approaches and platforms exist preventing wide-scale, sharable usage. It’ll take a collaborative and cooperative approach but I look for a standard coming where the sharing and access of health and medical records exists across professionals, organization and patients—safely, swiftly and securely.
5. Retail Increases in Importance: Despite the rise of digital and ecommerce, the in-store retail experience still matters—maybe now more than ever. Booz & Company note the average consumer visits retail grocery and drugstores 2.2 times per week. Other research points to consumers wanting to shop for healthcare and wellness items in person rather than online. Retailers today, especially in pharmacy locations, offer many opportunities to interact with consumers either through mobile applications, rewards programs or in-store consumer health kiosks. And the role of pharmacists is also on the rise. All this points to the retail pharmacy experience continuing its importance in the consumer healthcare experience.