Healthcare is a rapidly-changing industry that often leaves patients and providers both struggling to effectively stay informed, catch up and prepare for the future.
These four new trends are emblematic of healthcare’s hurried nature, so we want to make sure you’re aware and prepared for how they may impact your practice and your patients.
Right now, it’s important to start with awareness and begin gathering knowledge and information that can help you stay on top of how these trends are changing healthcare.
Trend #1: Retail’s healthcare payment shake-up
Retailers and other employers are getting in on the act of paying for healthcare, attempting to cut-out insurers by negotiating with and directly purchasing from healthcare providers. If this model proves to be successful and generate cost-savings for employers, it is likely more companies will follow Amazon and Walmart’s efforts at essentially creating their own in-house health insurance for their employees.
Walmart, for instance, is directly purchasing healthcare from hospitals and doctors in six different regions in 2018 and may expand their program. Employees receive coverage for healthcare services included in the network of providers paid by Walmart, allowing the retail giant to conduct their own payment negotiations instead of relying on insurance companies. For Walmart, the goal is to generate cost savings, find ways to promote efficiency and improve outcomes. All without an insurance company mediating the transactions.
Amazon has joined forces with Berkshire Hathaway, INC and JPMorgan Chase & Co to create a new company with plans to offer employees at the three companies better healthcare services. Other major companies are also expressing interest in going without traditional insurers and providing their own coverage for employees, too.
For chiropractors, this trend likely means that more patients will be seeking chiropractic care that accepts payments from alternative forms of coverage provided by employers. These employers may be looking to negotiate with and pay you directly, in contrast to using an insurance benefit plan as a middleman.
Trend #2: Virtual reality (VR) and internet of things (IoT)
More companies are offering new ways for patients to be connected to their health and plug-into apps and tools designed to promote health and wellness. While initially starting out as a seemingly-expensive and limited trend, it’s now becoming very mainstream for both healthcare practices and patients to closely track health metrics and enlist VR and IoT tools to strengthen and support health goals.
Some chiropractors are encouraging their patients to use activity trackers such as Fitbit devices, for instance. VR systems and augmented reality (AR) are becoming available for smartphone and tablet users, demonstrating that headsets aren’t the only aspects of this trend consumers can now use.
Trend #3: Uncertainty in federal healthcare policy and in the insurance industry
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded healthcare insurance coverage to millions of more Americans, but recent efforts to repeal the bill and replace it with something else are making many in the healthcare industry wonder what’s next.
In a sense, American healthcare is in a persistent state of flux between the ACA’s expansion and whatever might come next to replace it. Federally-funded programs and departments could see decreases in funding in the coming years, while state budgets will likely have less to spend on healthcare initiatives if federal funding drops.
Here are a few potential implications:
- If your patients relied on plans purchased through an ACA subsidy or through the exchange, their coverage may change soon. Some employers may change their healthcare coverage in response to different regulations or pricing.
- In some instances, this could also mean changing or uncertain healthcare policies at the federal and state levels. Chiropractors will need to be diligent about staying compliant by investigating for themselves how these policies apply.
- Small margins are driving more healthcare organizations and insurers to join together in mergers and acquisitions. This may mean changes to the roster of insurance companies you work with.
Trend #4: Cloud computing and big data
As cloud computing and big data become more accessible, expect to see more clinics relying on them to analyze patient information and deliver better healthcare. In time, this should help more doctors know what’s really trending at their own practices and have the tools to drive healthcare forward.
This trend is supported by these developments:
- Interoperability of EHR is improving. More systems can effectively “talk” to each other, making it easier and more useful to collect and aggregate population health data.
- Improved security of cloud-stored data and applications is easing some providers’ concerns about security, leading more people to embrace the cloud.
- IT costs are often much lower when practices enlist the cloud for help.
- Software and algorithms are helping doctors look at their practices differently by getting a better look at their data.
2018 is a big year for healthcare
With so much going on, it’s no wonder today’s healthcare feels like such a different industry than it was ten years ago–to many chiropractors, practicing today is a dynamic and interesting challenge. Excitement and peril both seem to be just around the corner.
Thankfully, it’s also a time of great opportunity for chiropractors to demonstrate their treatment successes to the public, share their knowledge and help more patients.
- Tracer, Z. “Amazon Isn’t the Only Retail Giant Trying to Remake Healthcare.” Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-08/amazon-isn-t-the-only-retail-giant-trying-to-remake-health-care. Published: March 2018. Accessed: March 2018.
- Muoio, D. “Mixed reality, extrasensory, and other trends for healthcare VR.” Healthcare IT News. http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/mixed-reality-extrasensory-and-other-trends-healthcare-vr. Published: March 2018. Accessed: March 2018.
- Dowling, M. “Michael Dowling: 4 most important healthcare trends in 2018.” Becker’s Hospital Review. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/michael-dowling-4-most-important-healthcare-trends-in-2018.html. Published: December 2017. Accessed: March 2018.
- Healthcare Finance Staff. “Healthcare mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures in 2017: Running list.” Healthcare Finance. http://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/slideshow/healthcare-mergers-and-acquisitions-2017-running-list. Published: October 2017. Accessed: March 2018.
- HealthTech Staff. “7 Healthcare Technology Trends to Watch in 2017.” HealthTech. https://healthtechmagazine.net/article/2017/01/7-healthcare-technology-trends-watch-2017. Published: January 2017. Accessed: March 2018.