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.
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.
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.
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 illnesses. Cedars-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.
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.