Health care development is not just about new drugs and cutting-edge surgical procedures. Technology is changing everything, including “health-seeker” expectations.
As medical costs rise, many are asking why the health care system does not keep them healthy. In turn, providers and other stakeholders must begin to consider not just “health care,” but also “wellness.”
Entrepreneurs, innovators, physicians, data scientists, medical insurance providers, and other experts in a variety of fields are eyeing this mindset shift. The health care system, they say, is set for a radical transformation. Here are some trends to watch in the coming decade:
1. A glut of patients
Baby boomers are now senior citizens. Medical advances, improved access to health care, and better patient awareness have lengthened the average life span. Longer lives means more health seekers.
As a result, physicians will feel more pressure on their time and energy. Hospitals will feel more pressure on their resources. Getting an appointment will be more difficult for patients, and waiting-room times may lengthen. Employers and insurance providers will see more claims.
2. Demand for preventive care
Missed days at work. High premiums. Expensive hospital stays. Lower quality of life: being sick is costly and cumbersome. Yet our current system focuses solely on treating illness.
Soon, health seekers will question the relevance and sustainability of our “sickness-based” system. They will demand that health care providers shift their focus to preventing illness.
In response, providers must shift their attitudes. Tomorrow’s health-care consumers will expect providers to engage more. They will want doctors to teach them how to prevent diseases and manage chronic conditions, to spot early warning signs of disease, and how to modify their behaviors for optimal health.
They will also expect providers to track patient progress and adjust medications as they go along, when needed.
3. A health tech explosion
Technology will have a profound affect on health care amid rapid progress in mobile communications, data analytics, and infrastructure. Different technologies will integrate and synthesize to enable seamless, holistic care.
Data gleaned from wearables and other devices and faster computers will provide physicians with more information about their patients. This data will help them better identify health risks and early warning signs.
4. Value-based insurance
Our current fee-for-service model provides payment for all services providers deliver, including repeat laboratory tests, duplicate diagnostic procedures, and unnecessary surgeries that do not improve patient outcomes.
But in the future, insurers will pay providers only for evidence-based services that improve the patient’s health in a cost-effective manner. For instance, insurers may not reimburse the cost of a surgery to manage pain if the patient has not tried physical therapy.
The value-based model will force providers to improve quality of care, deliver their services at equal or lower cost, and put the needs of patients first.
5. Changes in caregiver roles
Health providers will expand their primary care delivery teams and bring in specialist support staff to take over some of the physician’s duties.
Medical intervention by a clinical aide is said to resolve 74 percent of non-acute pediatric complications and 62 percent of walk-in pediatric cases without a physician visit. For those with heart failure, management by a clinical aide after discharge greatly reduces readmission rates.
Nutritionists, mental health therapists and behavioral counselors, quit-smoking coaches, physical and occupational therapists, and physiotherapists can be integral parts of this extended primary-care team.
These trends are already forming on the horizon. As they take shape, the health care system will transform gradually to empower health seekers, help providers better serve them, and reduce costs for insurers and employers. Now, that’s a “win-win-win.”