« Friday Five: Top 5 healthcare business news items from the MCOL Weekend edition | Main | Friday Five: Top 5 healthcare business news items from the MCOL Weekend edition »

Ten Large Objects on the Highway to Healthcare in 2018

By Clive Riddle, January 5, 2018

We find ourselves suddenly situated in 2018. How did that happen? Where did 2017 go, and for that matter, 2016 and its younger siblings? A Meat Loaf ballad once lyricized how Objects in the Rear View Mirror Appear Closer Than They Are. With apologies to AC/DC - on the highway to healthcare, here are ten large objects that demand our attention to stay focused on the road ahead and not in that fabled rear view mirror:

Merger Mania

In 2015 three health plan mega mergers were hatched, but only the Centene-HealthNet one made it out of the nest, and no other mega deals immediately followed suit. Will the late 2017 CVS-Aetna and hospital mergers such as CHI-Dignity signal more major activity in 2018, such as the rumored St. Joseph-Ascension merger? The answer should be a big yes for hospitals and other providers. In the health plan arena, look for additional players to pursue out of the box approaches such as CVS-Aetna (see below.)

CVS/Aetna and Multi-Level Integration

CVS will become a distribution center for applicable Aetna products. Aetna will become a distribution system for CVS products. CVS will further build upon its base retail clinics to become a direct care delivery system for Aetna. It’s a different kind of integrated delivery system than traditional hospital-medical group-health plan integrated systems, but integration it is, all the same, at multiple levels.

Amazon and the Decline of Retail Pharmacies

Especially coming off the holiday season, we read reports on the continuing rise of online shopping and decline of brick and mortar retail. Mail order pharmacy has been around for decades but has been focused on maintenance meds. Now that Amazon has mastered rapid on-demand delivery and has filed for pharmacy licenses in various states, and can deliver the other non-prescription products typically purchased at retail pharmacies – the rush is on. Major retail pharmacies will try mightily to enhance their own online offerings or partnerships.

Consumer Embrace of Technology

Private practice physicians aren’t so wild about the demands of EHR, and are skeptical at times about all things new bright and shiny, but numerous surveys indicate consumers are enthusiastic about the range of advances in healthcare technology that touch them. Consumers have plenty to be grumpy about in healthcare – but their embrace of technology will continue to drive demand for telehealth, e-visits, apps, portals, wearables, and new treatment options.

Searching For Value in Value Based Care

In the business of healthcare, we love to give birth to innovative approaches in healthcare delivery and payment arrangements, and after a honeymoon period, we tend to eat our own. Studies are published that indicate the new approach doesn’t deliver on results. A chorus of naysayers rises. And then we rightly or wrongly move on to something else. Health Affairs recently published a study concluding that Medicare ACO program savings were more the result of patient selection than care efficiencies. Other studies have begun to question various value based care arrangements. Given the growing popularity of value based care, and the intrinsic notion that the proposition makes sense, there is much at stake for value based stakeholders to continue to demonstrate the true value in their arrangements.

All Things Healthcare CyberSecurity

Hackers are as plentiful and resilient as crabgrass. Healthcare provides fertile hacking ground. The challenges in cybersecurity will grow larger, not smaller in 2018. More data breaches, and ransomware and other intrusions will occur and disrupt. A greater portion of healthcare resources will have to be deployed from every budget.

Deploying Social Determinants of Health

SDOH has been around for some time, but in 2018 it will be put into practice for population health initiatives by healthcare organizations and health plans on a significantly wider scale, driven by analytics and innovative new approaches.

Ho-Hum Impact of Trump Health Insurance Reforms

Moving insurance plans offerings across state lines and promoting association health plans won’t make much of a dent in the individual health insurance market in 2018. Don’t count on these initiatives to drive much business.

The Certainty of Uncertainty

Uncertainly was the word of the year in 2017 as the ACA teetered on a year-long tightrope. The tax reform individual mandate axe further muddies the water, as well as threatened Medicaid funding and more in 2018, but then there are the November 2018 elections, and who knows what that will bring.

Fulfilling the Promise of Analytics

SDOH is just one of a spectrum of initiatives that analytics is driving that wouldn’t have been feasible in their current form earlier this decade. Analytics is helping to shape solutions for the Opioid crisis, healthcare identify management, and interventions throughout population health, readmissions management, complex case management, to name a few. Serious analytics requires no small sum of resources and scale, but the returns are mounting and will bear even more fruit in 2018.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>