Tech-savvy consumers, the Affordable Care Act, and competitive new companies entering the healthcare industry are all contributors to changes that will be affecting patients, providers, and payers in 2015.
Researchers at PwCs' Health Research Institute surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers and identified the top issues for consumers in the coming year. The main focus appears to be technology and cooperation at all levels of care. Below are the key takeaways from the report.
Technology companies are building intuitive mobile mechanical devices and apps that monitor vital signs, analyze blood and urine, track medication adherence, and more. All of these innovations can help patients be more proactive in their own care as well as allow doctors to monitor their patients from a distance, thus cutting costs.
Mobile health apps
In 2015, the FDA will be reviewing a record number of mobile health apps. Among consumers, the top four categories for apps were healthy eating (23%), dieting/weight loss (18%), exercise (18%), and health information/education (18%). When providers weighed in, 86% believed mobile apps will become more important for patient health management in the coming five years.
Privacy vs convenience
Patients want easy access to their data, but 56% percent of consumers noted that privacy and security issues could impact the amount of information they share with their physicians. Collaboration with retail industries that have experience with this issue could help digital health companies better balance security with convenience.
High-cost patients trigger innovation
As the healthcare industry works to reduce costs, innovative care models are being developed and tested. Strategies include the use of wearable devices, telemedicine, and coordinated care involving both doctors and social workers. For high-cost dual-eligible patients — who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare — the focus will be on increasing engagement for patients, including social and behavioral care.
2014 saw the launch of OpenFDA, a public database with searchable data sets that allow anyone to analyze adverse events, product recalls, and labeling information. OpenFDA can be used by research and development programs to concentrate on product qualities that may be more helpful to patients. In October, hundreds of physician groups, advocacy groups, and regulatory commissions signed a petition calling for the registering of all clinical trials and reporting of all results.
The newly insured
In 2015, 10 million previously uninsured Americans will be enrolled in a health plan. Many of these individuals need help understanding their coverage. For instance, 65% of consumers with individual coverage and 75% of those enrolled in Medicaid were unsure what a formulary was. Collaboration between insurers and physicians can help engage these patients early. In turn, newly-insured consumers will give the healthcare industry a new portrait of demographics and contribute toward better strategies for education and engagement.
Physician extenders in patient care
As the healthcare industry works to accommodate the millions of newly insured, the role of “physician extenders” (i.e., nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and pharmacists) will grow. Three-quarters of consumers said that they would be comfortable seeing a nurse practitioner or physician assistant for physical exams, lab tests, minor illnesses or injuries, and prescriptions. Over the next 5 years, the number of nurse practitioners is expected to increase by 30% and the number of physician assistants is expected to increase by 58%.
In a recent Health Research Institute survey, 58% of consumers said they would be more likely to choose a healthcare company that partnered with other companies to provide better service. An example of this is Walgreens partnering with Theranos to have quick, affordable blood testing available to customers, allowing for faster diagnosis and treatment.
The growth and change in the healthcare industry presents a great opportunity to try out new strategies and collaborative relationships. As healthcare educators, we need to make the most of these opportunities to engage and motivate patients to be proactive about their health.