The healthcare industry has seen numerous changes in recent years. Fueled by factors ranging from transforming economic climates to the introduction of new medical technologies, several emerging trends have begun to influence areas like patient care and health insurance. Eventually the following trends may affect the industry as a whole:
1. Mergers and Acquisitions
An increasing number of healthcare sector companies are consolidating. In 2015 alone, the industry saw a number of big-name mergers and acquisitions, including Pfizer’s $160 billion purchase of Allergan and the notable $48.4 billion deal between Anthem and Cigna. Such consolidations will become even more prominent in 2016 and beyond, as they help create larger insurance providers that can offer better benefits to their customers. These mergers will also provide a wealth of benefits to smaller pharmaceutical companies, as they will gain prominence in a narrowed field.
2. Private Healthcare Exchanges
In the coming years, more businesses will likely shift away from the traditional insurance benefit packages they offer to their employees and gravitate towards private healthcare exchanges. Through these programs, each employee receives a specific budget that he or she may allot to the exchanges funded through their companies. They can then shop around for the health insurance that will best fit their needs as opposed to receiving the same health insurance as their coworkers.
If they find a plan outside of the exchange budget, they can supplement the cost from their personal expenses. Over the course of the last year alone, the amount of individuals who have received these budgets from their employers has doubled, and this number is only expected to rise going forward.
3. Healthcare on the Go
Wearable medical devices have become some of the most widely available and commonly used healthcare management devices on the market. Such electronics help people keep a constant eye on a wide range of health-related data, including calories burned, sleep habits, and blood glucose levels.
At the same time, healthcare applications for mobile devices have further revolutionized individuals’ capabilities to oversee their care at any time and from any location. In fact, the number of users with health apps on their personal devices doubled between 2013 and 2015. This trend will only continue as healthcare technology firms release even more advanced accessories that will exceed the capabilities of today’s gadgets.
4. New Options for Drug Pricing
In an effort to curb the steady increase in drug prices, healthcare firms will have to begin exploring new pricing options. A recent consumer survey from the PwC Health Research Institute found that more than half of individuals would prefer to make pharmaceutical payments over a period of time rather than having to pay up front. This option and similar financing models may soon become the norm in the healthcare industry.
Another price-reducing avenue that companies may begin to explore is to offer biosimilar drugs to their consumers. The drugs are nearly identical to the more expensive brand versions, but they are typically offered at a fraction of the cost.
5. An Increase in Cybersecurity
With numerous advancements in healthcare technology flooding the market in recent years, the need for better cybersecurity has become a pertinent issue for both care providers and their patients. In fact, results from PwC’s consumer poll stated that around half of healthcare consumers would rethink their choice to use a manufacturer or hospital that had experienced a data breach. As a result, even the best hospitals in the world could lose patients if their information is hacked via interconnected medical devices. While it will be a costly endeavor, creating separate device networks and firewalls will help hospitals achieve higher cybersecurity and protect patients in the long run.
6. More Doctors Making House Calls
Typically thought of as an old-fashioned means of delivering general healthcare, house calls are starting to become more popular again. In recent years, a number of startups have begun catering to this method of care by offering physician house call service with all the benefits of a standard office visit. One such company, Heal, serves patients across several counties in California with quick, on-demand visits from insured and fully-licensed practitioners.
By making it easier to receive treatment through the use of mobile applications, this revolutionary form of on-call healthcare is becoming more widely used among individuals at home and at their businesses. Similarly, house calls have been steadily increasing in prominence as an option for elder care ever since the implementation of a new Medicare program. Over the last four years, the insurance plan has tested in-home visits as an alternative to early admittance into nursing homes.
7. The Continued Rise of Telemedicine
According to a report from IBISWorld, the telemedicine sector has seen a 34% increase over the last five years alone, with total revenues sitting at just below $650 million. With more companies rapidly unveiling innovative telehealth solutions, numerous entities within the global health market will have to accommodate these growing services in the coming years. For example, more health insurance providers are expected to provide coverage for a wide array of telemedicine services starting in 2016. With insurance, costs for telehealth offerings sit at a modest $25 to $30, which enables more people to gain easy access to care at home for lower prices than many office visits.