Health+Benefits

Top 4 Healthcare Trends to Watch

What’s in store for 2020, and what it all means for employers.
By Katie Oberkircher Posted on December 17, 2019

2020 will put a spotlight on healthcare. As we get closer to the next presidential election, the questions of who pays for it, who is covered, and how efficiently care is delivered will all be elevated to the national debate stage. At the same time, current market forces will push the industry to reconcile rising costs and navigate rapid innovation in a traditionally-siloed delivery system. As the healthcare industry transitions, what lies ahead? These are the top healthcare trends to watch in the coming year:

1

We are about to re-think mental healthcare.

Now more than ever, employers are attuned to mental healthcare because of the generational makeup of the workforce. Millennials, especially, are more comfortable talking about their mental health than those from previous generations. Given the technological advances over the past decade, there is also an opportunity to follow an individual’s life over time, which will allow early warning and detection of mental illness. The technology to identify, support, and treat mental illness exists, but it becomes more of a cultural and generational issue when thinking about how to drive employees to mental healthcare resources.

The challenge for employers: Understand how to integrate physical and behavioral health programs.

More on mental health: What Employers Can Do About Mental Healthcare, A New Generation of Benefits

2

New tech standards are changing the way we measure health information and record data.

Data and how to use it have now been a part of the national healthcare dialogue for a while. As medicine becomes more personalized, care is streamlined between providers, and value-based contracting becomes more common, we will begin to see care delivery oriented around a person’s social, mental, and physical status within their community. To do that, we need easily accessible, sharable health data.

So far, there have been two different approaches:

Develop data standards to put patients in charge of their health information.

One example in practice: The Trump administration has advocated for a consumer-directed data exchange, where patients exercise their rights to their private health information through a technology asset that retrieves the data and grants certain third parties—think a primary care provider—access to it. That tech asset is what’s known as an open application programming interface (API), which standardizes information and the way it’s shared, enabling individuals to easily access their complete health data (claims cost information, clinical notes, lab test results, and more).

Explore new types of clinical and nonclinical data that providers can use to deliver care

One example in practice: Close to 60% of social determinants of health (SDoH) data come from outside clinical walls. With new technological capabilities, providers can now utilize a variety of clinical and nonclinical information to deliver appropriate care.
The Gravity Project—an academically-driven, social determinants of health program—is now integrating with the interoperability standard, Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), to focus on standardizing medical codes to cover topics like work, lifestyle, and socioeconomic factors.

The challenge for employers: While it’s evident that allowing employees (patients) to access and share their health data could directly affect cost, quality and access to healthcare, the benefit to the employer is less obvious.

More on data and SDoH: The Data Access Game, I Can Access My Health Data. Now What?, Social Determinants of Health Surface in U.S. Policy Agenda, Hiding in Plain Sight

3

2020 will be consumer-focused.

The combination of data innovation, rising healthcare costs, and targeted, personalized care has pushed the industry to create new digital point solutions for all stakeholders, in particular patients and caregivers. The result is a DIY approach to care facilitated in new settings, like over the phone or in the home using telemedicine, HIPAA-compliant Amazon Alexa, and at-home vital monitoring, to name a few examples. The digital health sector is on track to raise over $8 billion in investments this year.

The consumerization of the industry has been fueled by tech companies, startups, and new entrants vying to empower individuals to make financial and other decisions about their care and to help them navigate the healthcare system. That’s started with an effort to give patients access to their own data, which in turn could help them see a more holistic picture of their health now and in the future.

The challenge for employers: Putting employees in the driver’s seat when it comes to managing their and their loved ones’ healthcare is not a new concept. Where employers could make an impact is demonstrating the relationship between healthcare costs, innovative point solutions, and social, mental, and physical health.

4

Companies new to the health industry are reshaping the market.

Retailers, tech giants, banks, telecom, and other consumer brands are investing in the health landscape. Everything from healthcare coverage and care delivery to enabling the use and storage of data—these companies recognize an opportunity to create B2C and B2B offerings using technology as a way to engage customers.

Many of these brands are entering the healthcare ecosystem through partnerships or acquisitions. Lyft and Uber have partnered with third parties, hospital systems, and electronic medical record (EMR) companies to develop a new modality of care: delivering patients to the hospital. Other companies like Apple are betting that patients will be the key to creating industry interoperability and lowering costs. The tech giant has acquired startups focused on personal health data and improving patient care. Amazon, Google, JP Morgan, Best Buy, AT&T, Samsung, and many other brands are investing in and exploring how to impact care delivery and reach their existing customer base from a new angle. They are also driving incumbents to find more creative ways to spread risk, finance care, and advance a pay-for-value mentality.

The challenge for employers: The amount of rapid growth inside and outside the industry might make it difficult to cut through the noise and weigh which options work best for individual employee populations

Be on the lookout for more insight and analysis on new market entrants coming in 2020.

Katie Oberkircher Content Specialist, Market Intelligence & Insights Read More

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