The health care industry could see big changes in the years ahead. New entrants to the market (like Apple and Google), more technologies in smartphone and wearables space, the introduction of the Affordable Care Act–these could all have a wide influence, transforming a sector that hasn’t always moved quickly.
“More wired, consumer-oriented and innovative than ever before, the $2.8 trillion US health care industry is undergoing profound transformation,” says a new report from consultants PwC. “In 2015, the…sector will begin to look and feel like other industries, catering to customers expecting one-click service. A true consumer-driven market is slowly taking shape.”
The report, from the group’s Health Research Institute, lists ten trends to watch. We picked out five below.
Mobile medical devices allow providers to transfer some basic monitoring tasks to patients. For example, the disposable Vital Connect biosensor records heart rate, respiratory rate, skin temperature, activity and posture. It should enable doctors to track people more continuously, and allow patients to avoid visiting facilities for everyday testing.
Many physicians interviewed for the report said they would prescribe mobile apps for patient management, particularly for things like healthy eating, weight loss and exercise.
Health providers are developing alternative ways to cater to high-cost patients. PwC says 1% of the population accounts for 20% of all expenses. For example, the Spectrum Health System in Michigan identified 30 frequent visitors to its ERs and offered primary care within walking distance. The number of visits dropped 90% in a year and overall costs fell from $1.1 million to $130,000.
New data analysis techniques could lead to a better understanding of the cost-benefit of certain interventions. For example, pharmaceutical companies could use health records, genomic data and labor statistics to justify high upfront drug prices. Or, based on health profiles, providers could begin to predict which patients may be good candidates for treatments.
Drug trials are notoriously opaque, obscuring the ability of the public to understand real drug effectiveness. Likewise, the doctors and drug companies aren’t always forthcoming about their financial relationships. But PwC says we’re entering a new era of transparency. The Food and Drug Administration now has several open data initiatives, including a public database for analyzing adverse drug side effects and Open Payments, a financial disclosure scheme.
Millennials are different from previous generations. In the case of health care, PwC expects to see a new emphasis on “flexibility, convenience and technologies that deliver personalized experiences that meet their needs and emphasize well-being.” In other words, they’ll demand the same thing from health care as other areas of life.
Read more from the report here.