PwC’s Health Research Institute has identified a list of top industry issues for 2014, and new opportunities and standards imposed by the Affordable Care Act are at the heart of the report. With the law reshaping the country’s $2.8 trillion health sector, HRI asserts that healthcare organizations must make adjustments this year to meet the needs of a simultaneously changing customer base while also considering rapid innovation and increased competition.
“The North Texas market is ground zero for many of these healthcare trends,” says Benjamin Isgur, Dallas-based director of HRI, in an email. “We have seen interesting new partnerships through large mergers, a deluge of technology implementation, and a very strong move to retail health. The challenge will be how to use and coordinate these assets for a better customer experience in the new year.”
Here are what the HRI calls the top 10 issues for healthcare in 2014 and its observations about each issue:
1. Companies rethink their roles in the new health economy.
Healthcare organizations are reinventing themselves, with insurers acquiring provider groups, provider systems entering the insurance business themselves, and retail pharmacies expanding their product and service offerings through growing their retail clinics.
2. Corporate funds invade the healthcare venture capital space.
Armed with cash and know-how, corporate venture arm investment in life science companies will invest more money in healthcare sectors, as traditional venture capital investing will continue to decline.
3. Social, mobile, analytics, and cloud come together.
Consumers are demanding better customer service through integrated social, cloud, and mobile analytics technologies while only 18 percent of companies are maximizing the use of smartphone apps to integrate patient data into clinician workflows and EHRs. Meanwhile, some healthcare companies are making strides toward fusing the technologies.
4. Fail fast, frequently, and frugally for true innovation.
Federal budget cuts are putting pressure upon innovation, new penalties for hospital-acquired conditions, and increased competition from non-traditional players. Only 27 percent of health executives say their companies formally manage innovation.
5. Technology is the new workplace multiplier.
New technology will be key in meeting the demands of up to 25 million newly insured patients and an aging population.
6. Employers explore private exchanges.
Private exchanges can lead to a “defined contribution” model for healthcare benefits, and several high-profile companies such as Sears, IBM, and Walgreens are already making the switch.
7. Industry picks up the pace on price transparency.
Businesses are making exclusive arrangements with providers for high-value care, and the federal government has opened its books on what hospitals bill for relatively common treatments.
8. Twenty-first century tools refresh clinical trials.
Drug makers must incorporate new research methods to meet efficiency and cost pressures, and some are already recruiting patients, securing electronic consent, and shipping trial medications to patients’ homes, thus shrinking trial start-up times.
9. New rules combat counterfeit drugs.
A counterfeit version of Heparin was linked to 149 American deaths between 2007 and 2008, and the Drug Quality and Security Act has established a national track and trace program to target counterfeit medicines. Beginning in 2017, the industry must use unique serial numbers to track drug lots while documenting each time the drugs change ownership.
10. States pursue Medicaid-managed long-term care.
In 2014, HRI projects that 26 states will have a Medicaid long-term care program, up from just eight states 10 years ago.