The New Year brings both obstacles and opportunities to healthcare organizations. Rising costs are having a significant impact on every aspect of business operations, while diverse healthcare offerings grow more complex. Overarching goals remain consistent: reduce risk, increase efficiency, maintain compliance, improve patient outcomes, and recruit and retain employees. Let’s take a close look at the top challenge in each of those areas.
- RISK: Regulation changes – Most companies face some type of regulation change each year. In 2019, healthcare companies will deal with the continued effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the associated Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which will officially repeal the ACA tax penalty. This is likely to have a dramatic impact on the industry as a whole.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, healthcare organizations may have to restructure their businesses to accommodate new rules and liabilities. These changes may have an impact on the cost of medical goods or disrupt the supply chain. Healthy individuals and small businesses seeking lower premiums may benefit from the regulation change, but middle-class consumers looking for comprehensive care may not fare as well — potentially making them less likely to seek medical services.
- EFFICIENCY: Technology and digital advances – In 2017, this prediction was made based on a study from networking provider Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company: “In just two years, by 2019, the majority of healthcare organizations (87 percent) will have adopted Internet of Things (IoT) technology and 76 percent believe it will transform the healthcare industry.” Now we see the combining of IoT development with telemedicine and telehealth technologies, creating a new Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).
This IoMT trend has seen patient experience improvements, increased profitability and greater efficiency, through advances like:
- Mobile devices and apps to help prevent, track and manage chronic illnesses
- Wearable ECG and EKG monitors
- Medical measurements for skin temperature, glucose levels and blood pressure
- Smart pills to deliver medications
Digital therapeutics is an emerging health discipline that uses technology to supplement or possibly replace medications in the treatment of disease. Connected health services, which is care supported by devices that transmit data or connect to the internet, give additional visibility into patient treatment and new ways to improve outcomes.
As healthcare organizations embrace our digital future, the life sciences industry will continue to be reshaped by developments such as patient portals, online tools, smartphone apps, digital payment, connected care and digital therapies. Virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) solutions are leading to significant advances in healthcare technologies. From educating new students to planning procedures, the field of VR and AR in healthcare offers serious promise.
- COMPLIANCE: Data management and security – Healthcare is at a crossroads when it comes to data and analytics. Healthcare organizations recognize they must gather, analyze and apply data in meaningful ways to deliver high-quality patient care while adhering to privacy, safety, billing and reporting requirements. They must leverage data to manage health and drive decisions, and also protect consumer information privacy and security in a world with sophisticated cyberattacks and increased data breaches.
Cybersecurity: In 2017, the U.S. medical and healthcare sector experienced over 350 data breaches, exposing 4.93 million patient records. Improving cybersecurity requires dedicated resources to ensure systems are properly protected against cybercriminals.
On a positive note, blockchain technologies are allowing fast, secure and transparent peer-to-peer transfer of digital information. And the use of Big Data “will increase dramatically in 2019” while artificial intelligence (AI) will become a “transformational force in healthcare,” according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. Those core functions include:
- Electronic health records (EHR) to identify trends and ultimately lower treatment costs and improve quality of life
- Healthcare intelligence to revolutionize the tracking of patient statistics and vital signs
- Hospitals and healthcare systems to predict healthcare outcomes and design treatment protocols
- Drug discovery and design to determine potential drug candidates
- Clinical trials for real-time monitoring
- OUTCOMES: Patient experience – Patient experience has become a top focus for all healthcare organizations. Delivering a patient experience that meets — and exceeds — expectations is similar to a good customer experience in retail. Increasingly, healthcare decision-makers are looking for ways to improve digital health and optimize patient care from two perspectives: total consumer health (which involves improving consumers’ medical, social, financial and environmental well-being) and population health services (which focuses on community-based health strategies, chronic care management, clinical integration and health barrier reduction).
What’s driving this trend? Consider that, as more patients must pay a larger portion of their healthcare bills, they demand better services from their providers. Healthcare organizations will face tougher competition in attracting and retaining patients who expect the same level of customer service they receive from other consumer brands. They want self-service options that are convenient and a digital experience like Amazon. Salesforce.com offers four ways healthcare marketers can get up to speed:
- Use data as the starting point to understand the patient
- Get personal with meaningful marketing
- Wake up to the power of mobile
- Analyze your campaigns and pivot fast
- EMPLOYMENT: Recruitment and retention — It’s no surprise the Health eCareers’ 2018 Healthcare Recruiting Trends Report found healthcare employers are dealing with critical shortages of physicians, physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) in primary care and specialties such as psychiatry, orthopedics, cardiology and neurology. Higher salary offers and benefits such as sign-on bonuses and continuing medical education allowances are common recruiting tactics.
Retention is equally important. The Health eCareers survey also found three key drivers of turnover are management, senior leadership and job fit. Healthcare organizations must address employee burnout in order to combat this negative trend. Programs that support employee engagement and recognition may also help.