Our predictions: five ways healthcare innovation will move forward in 2017

CONTRIBUTOR

Corbin Shaw

Innovation Solutions Consultant, Fuse by Cardinal Health

Kristina Redgrave

Innovation Solutions Manager, Fuse by Cardinal Health

T he pace of change in healthcare continues to accelerate at breakneck speed, and this year is proving no different. To help you keep up to speed, Fuse by Cardinal Health industry experts Corbin Shaw and Kristina Redgrave took a look at the ever-changing healthcare landscape and how healthcare innovation will move forward over the next several months. Here are their five predictions.

Prediction #1

A record number of physicians will bill for telehealth services and 75 percent of patients will use two or more digital health tools in 2017.

Due to the availability of remote diagnostic tools, remote visit technology and reimbursement codes for virtual visits, the instance of virtual doctor appointments will continue to rise in the coming year.

The Rock Health 2016 Digital Health Consumer Report showed 2016 had impressive growth in telehealth and consumer adoption of digital health tools. According to Rock Health, “Forty-six percent of consumers are now considered active digital health adopters, having used three or more categories of digital health tools (e.g., telemedicine, wearables)—up from 19 percent in 2015.”

With an increased focus on quality outcomes and moving patients to more efficient care settings, providers are more likely to look to nontraditional models of care. The increasing cost of care in traditional settings coupled with new payment models make the market ripe for the expansion of telehealth and increased use of digital health tools.

Prediction #2

Continuing consolidation across the healthcare industry will provide increased access to longitudinal patient data, allowing for greater innovation in multiple areas such as utilization management, patient experience and precision medicine.

2017 began with United Health Group’s acquisition of Surgical Care Affiliates, a chain of outpatient surgery centers. Throughout 2017, we will likely see a continuation of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) across the healthcare industry. There will be M&A between providers, and also M&A between payers and providers as they look for new business models to decrease costs, increase revenue and create efficiencies across the care continuum.

A major driving force of this consolidation is the move toward value-based care and alternative payment models.

We will also likely see continued acquisitions across the digital health startup ecosystem. According to the Rock Health report, there were 136 M&A deals in the digital health space in 2016.

46%

The percentage of consumers who are now considered active digital health adopters, having used three or more categories of digital health tools (e.g., telemedicine, wearables).

Prediction #3

In 2017, the increasing consumerization of healthcare will drive health systems to invest heavily in nontraditional concierge-like healthcare services.

In recent years, there has been a dramatic shift in power from provider to patient. Patients are becoming more active consumers of their healthcare and are increasingly driving their healthcare decisions. Patient empowerment will continue to grow in 2017, including the demand for quality and price transparency.

That means consumers will be more likely to pay out of pocket for concierge-like services as patient experience becomes a key differentiator among competing health systems. Health systems will look to leverage innovative technologies, such as virtual reality and telehealth offerings, to win patient business.

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Prediction #4

There will be large scale investment in Artificial Intelligence (AI) for healthcare in 2017, but substantial progress in the use of AI for patient diagnostics and provider decision support won’t be made until data sharing and exchange across systems is standardized.

From a technical standpoint, AI has advanced to a point that given the necessary data set, a robust solution including machine learning, decision support, automatic diagnostics and precision medicine can be achieved. However, due to the lack of interoperability and large-scale collaboration by major Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), the use of AI in healthcare settings will not grow exponentially in the short term. AI will continue to be leveraged on a small scale when specific data sets can be used for patient discharge, clinical pathways, customized care plans and interventions.

Prediction #5

The greatest value of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in 2017 will be seen in applications that improve patient experience.

VR/AR is improving the patient experience by allowing patients to learn more about their upcoming procedure; transporting patients to locations other than medical settings, such as a remote tropical oasis, for pain, depression and stress management; and leading patients through interactive rehabilitation activities. Stanford Hospital doctors are using VR to prepare for surgery and to treat psychiatric illnessesCedars-Sinai Hospital is using VR headsets to transport patients to alternate locations and help with pain management.

Over the past few years, applications and adoption of VR/AR have been explored across various industry verticals. With the decreasing cost of VR/AR headsets, the technology has become more accessible and scalable. There are many potential applications of VR/AR in the healthcare setting such as training for providers, serving as a surgical aid and improving patient experience. In the coming years, VR/AR will become the industry standard for teaching and training doctors. However, we believe VR/AR will demonstrate its greatest value in improving the patient experience.

Stay tuned as we will take a deeper dive into many of these topics over the next few months.

About Fuse by Cardinal Health

Fuse by Cardinal Health is an innovation lab focused on connecting technology with healthcare to build the future of health and wellness. Fuse is creating a connected ecosystem among pharmacists, healthcare providers and patients that helps drive cost efficiencies, improved outcomes and better patient care.