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9 Healthcare Developments to Watch in 2018

As individuals, we look to the new year and for whatever reason, habit or instinct; we think about what is to come. If you have been watching healthcare industry news, then you know that 2018 promises to be as fascinating as 2017, full of twists and turns, strange bedfellows and, if all goes well, some real improvements in how we manage care.

1. Health Information Technology is evolving to better meet clinicians’ needs.

Health information technology in one form or another is the norm for most healthcare organizations at this point. But, while virtually inescapable, health information technology is taking its toll on physicians and other clinicians. Whether there are too numerous alerts or prompts, systems that are not fully integrated so single sign on is not working, or a general fatigue with multiple systems and a heavy workload. The industry is beginning to recognize that clinician burnout is a risk factor that could reduce the number of practicing caregivers and may also negatively impact quality. While as far back as the 1970s the industry was looking to understand the implications of technology, centralization, and self-care, we are still looking for answers. The good news is that we are getting closer to offering better solutions and developing technology platforms that address clinicians’ needs. Looking to acquire a new technology for your healthcare organization? Ask your vendor how they address this issue.

2. Opiod management strategies are emerging, we are moving past lip service to contain the epidemic.

According to the Health and Human Services (HHS) arm of the US government, “transforming how we treat pain and recalibrating the role opiod medications play in pain care are a critical part of reducing opiod harms”. The number of articles extolling the problems with opiods and their use are everywhere, they cannot be avoided. The good news is that now, instead of counting body bags for those we have lost to overdose, addiction and misuse, now the industry is more focused on how to get this madness under control. We are not there yet, we don’t have all the answers, but like the early steps from other successful treatment programs, we as a nation, are now ready to admit we have a problem and we are beginning with five first priorities.

3. Policy reforms are beginning to take shape to address excessively high prescription drug costs.

New York was the first state to pass legislation to limit high-priced prescription drug costs for their Medicaid program in 2017, but other states and payer entities are likely to follow suit. We all know that medical costs in the United States far exceed the costs of any other developed country and it is not because we go to see the doctor more, in fact we generally go less than our peers in other countries, but the healthcare related goods, services and prescription drugs that we do buy are more expensive. In fact, since 1998, when the US per capita drug costs became the highest in the world, prescription drug costs in the US have more than tripled. To get a handle on healthcare spending, we will have to address the high cost of prescription drugs. New York led the way, watch for more states and other stakeholders to follow suit.

4. Everything old is new again, healthcare house calls are making a comeback.

To mitigate the high costs of healthcare, consumers are open to new ways to get the care they need and by-passing the traditional approach to medical care. Just look at the trends in telehealth, it is finally going mainstream and deep in the heart of Texas, a relatively new company is offering low cost, on-demand medical house calls. If this model takes off, watch out traditional doc offices, your waiting rooms may not be as full as they once were.

5. Reporting the Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) will become mainstream, but sadly this information will NOT be used to full-capacity to alter care plans to improve quality.

There’s no denying that factors well beyond our health status at any given moment, have the power to affect our overall well-being. As a healthcare community we are beginning to capture data related to SDoH in our daily work. This is a step forward, but it is not enough. Capturing data is where it starts, to make a difference in the quality of care we provide for our constituents, we must use the data we collect on the SDoH to provide additional resources and services to those in need.

If our care plans are not altered to mitigate a risk, resolve a social determinant issue, or provide an alternative approach to reduce the negative impact of a SDoH, are we really doing all we can to increase the quality of care we provide? The issues here are often large and sometimes complex, while they won’t be totally resolved in 2018, we must stay the course and make improvements when and where we can.

 

6. Look for new uses of digital technology to improve medication compliance and record keeping.

When the FDA approved Abilify MyCite a couple of months ago, it was intriguing but not surprising. A pill with a sensor to digitally track if patients have ingested their medication seemed reasonable, almost expected, and much needed. While Abilify MyCite was approved for the treatment of schizophrenia, some forms of bipolar disorder and an add-on treatment for depression in adults, there are many other disease states that would benefit from a form factor that tracked medication adherence. In the year ahead, we can expect to see more medications leveraging this innovation.

7. Physical security for healthcare workers will become a priority.

Violence against clinicians is a common problem, though there has been relatively little attention and action to remedy the concern. In fact, in articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Reuters Health, the healthcare industry has been postulated as the most violent non-law-enforcement industry in the country. With a long history of violence in the workplace, it’s time that we sit up and act. So far, we don’t have a magic bullet, but that’s no excuse for not trying. Delaware passed a bill, California and Massachusetts have legislation in the pipeline, some institutions have added metal detectors, while others have added notes to medical charts, so healthcare workers are aware of patient’s violent history.    

8. AI for healthcare will become more tangible and practical uses will emerge.

Artificial Intelligence or AI has been buzzed about for years and now it’s here. If you use Google or Amazon, have a smart car or a digital home device, you are already using AI. The use cases for each of these applications may be simple, but arguably the devices, the services and efficiencies they deliver are already common and comfortable additions to our lives. We can expect the same inroads in healthcare, using AI to make routine and repetitive tasks more timely and less costly near-term.

9. More women than men will apply for medical school in 2018.

Continuing the pattern seen in 2017, when for the first time in history more women than men applied to medical school, in 2018 women will continue to outpace the number of men seeking careers as physicians. This is on trend with the general patterns seen in secondary education where, since 2007 women have earned a disproportionate share of college degrees at every level of higher education. Seems medical schools are just catching up with this trend in education. 

We’ve shared our watch list of impending trends and developments for 2018. If you would like to discuss these issues or any others related to health information technology, care coordination or medical management, click here. If you have some topics on your mind, please send us a few to consider from your watch list. Happy new year!

 

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