Healthcare Trends, Predictions and Challenges for 2020

Nov. 15, 2019
What industry consultants are seeing as key trends as we wrap up 2019 and head into a new year

The past decade has seen healthcare emerge as one of the most important issues of our time. From the creation of new policy to organizations challenged in navigating these changes, there has no doubt been tremendous change and disruption—with more to come.

As healthcare consultants, we’re seeing some recurring themes that we anticipate will carry over into 2020. Following are some predictions and what organizations can do to navigate.

Prediction 1: Continued disruption and innovation will dictate the need for creative solutions.

From healthcare-retail partnerships to the introduction of apps, wearables and data-driven AI applications, disruption and innovation are now central to healthcare. This is about the need to do things different.  Status quo is not an option. The successful healthcare organizations of the future are those that realize they need to fundamentally do things differently and are willing to experiment and be bold. One way organizations can adapt to these changes is to think outside the box by seeking expertise from other industries. What are some lessons to be learned from retail in how they’ve adapted to consumer demands? How might healthcare apply those same strategies?

Prediction 2: The popularity and use of alternative healthcare delivery channels will continue to grow.

Telehealth and other digital tools are gaining in popularity, as patients continue to embrace digital interactions. In a 2014 Strategy survey, up to 40 percent of respondents under the age of 45 identified digital as their preferred means of engagement to manage their health, outranking facility visits or phone calls. The survey also revealed that more than four in five respondents younger than 35 said they embraced care via virtual marketplaces, and 46 percent of healthcare consumers want as much data about their health as possible.

Additionally, a 2016 Accenture survey found that 54 percent of healthcare consumers want to interact more with providers through apps on their smart phones. In a separate report, Accenture research revealed that by late 2019, 66 percent of health systems will offer digital self-scheduling and 64 percent of patients will use it.  Digital will be a major disruptor to the market in the future and companies such as Amazon and Microsoft are already leveraging these technologies to improve care and the patient experience.

Prediction 3: There will be a continued emphasis on process improvement in healthcare.

As healthcare organizations seek to maximize budgets and improve efficiencies they will continue to employ process improvement disciplines to reduce variation and drive out waste. This seems obvious but most healthcare organizations do not do this well, and it is hard work. The current cost structure of most healthcare organizations is too high and not sustainable in the long run given declining reimbursement and increasing competition.

From leveraging lean principles to improve productivity, reduce inventory, improve testing accuracy, reduce costs and more, to the use of daily management systems that support daily problem solving and strategy execution and organizational training activities, healthcare organizations will adopt process improvement strategies used by other industries. Process improvement will also become more critical with the movement to value-based payment which rewards organizations based on specific outcomes.

Prediction 4: Health plans and providers will seek out ways to work together for greater effectiveness.

With continued reforms to Medicare and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – whatever form those may take in the future – we expect to see a continuation of payer/provider partnerships.  As payers and providers  seek to navigate the complexities of healthcare, the “payvider” model, which combines the functions of providing care and paying for it, will require bridging the information gap that exists within many healthcare organizations, and simplifying processes, as mentioned above. These efforts have tremendous potential to reduce overhead and improve care coordination as well as align incentives across organizations.

The healthcare industry also will realize significant challenges in the coming years, with the biggest pain points being:

  • The ability to derive value from M&A activity.
  •  Gaining actionable insights from data and analytics.
  • Developing and executing on a digital strategy that benefits both patients and providers.
  •  Incorporating collaboration and other tools to create a work environment for the future.
  • Taking a structured and holistic approach to business transformation to derive value and achieve organizational outcomes.
  • There is certainly a lot to be excited about as the industry evolves. And while the challenges may seem great they are surmountable.

Susan Kanvik and Karen Curtis are healthcare consultants with Point B, an integrated management consulting, venture investment, and real estate development firm.

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