January 16, 2015 at 5:00 am ET
As we step into 2015, the $2.8 trillion U.S. healthcare industry is poised for profound transformation. More wired, consumer-oriented and innovative than ever before, the industry is undergoing the reimagining already experienced by retailing and banking. Consumers are leading the way, bearing more of the cost of their own care and making more decisions about it. In response, incumbent healthcare companies and new entrants are developing more cost-efficient, transparent and convenient products and services tailored for consumers. Healthcare is turning into a market economy.
A new report from PwC’s Health Research Institute – Top health industry issues of 2015 – sp0tlights the top 10 changes, challenges and implications for businesses in 2015. Among the insights from HRI’s research, consumers are ready for non-physician caregivers to perform a wide range of health services, and physicians may be more interested than consumers in some DIY healthcare products and services.
Three of HRI’s top health industry issues zero in on consumer-relevant change–
Looking at these three issues in detail:
American physicians and consumers are ready to embrace a dramatic expansion of the personal medical kit. Wearable tech, smartphone-linked devices and mobile apps will be knitted into care delivery strategies and consumers’ lives.
In the developing New Health Economy, this high-tech personal medical kit could help diagnose illness, flag early signs of trouble, allow recovery and rehabilitation to occur closer to home and create a virtual workforce capacity. It could enable consumers to take charge of more of their own care, even becoming co-creators of their personal health plan. It could allow clinicians to monitor patients in lower-cost settings or from a distance.
According to HRI survey findings, clinicians may be more open to using these tools than consumers. One-third of consumers said they would use a home urinalysis device. But more than half of physicians said they would use data from such a device to prescribe medication or decide whether a patient should be seen. Nearly nine percent of MDs told HRI these patient devices and apps will be important to their practices in the next five years.
A proliferation of approved and portable medical devices in patients’ homes, and on their phones, makes diagnosis and treatment more convenient, redoubling the need for strong information security systems.
Companies are likely to find that regulatory approval may provide a competitive edge, setting one firm apart from others in a crowded field. Twenty percent of respondents to an HRI consumer survey said FDA approval was very important in their decisions to use a mobile app. Similarly, 26 percent of clinicians said that FDA approval was most important when deciding to prescribe apps.
Consumers and providers may benefit from an apps formulary or pharmacy. Apps can be categorized in similar ways to drugs, ranging from low-risk, over-the-counter apps to higher-risk apps that would require prescriptions. Other countries already provide similar services. The UK’s National Health Service already maintains a public database of over 200 “safe and trusted” apps for British citizens to access.
Privacy versus convenience will be an important question in 2015 as patients adopt digital tools and services that gather and analyze health information.
The stakes are high. Fifty-six percent of consumers said that privacy and security of medical information would affect decisions to tell doctors “everything” about their conditions; 51 percent said it would affect decisions to participate in clinical trials. Cyber threats can be barriers to doctor-patient communication and pharmaceutical research if patients and consumers are reluctant to share information and participate in research studies.
Data breaches will reenergize the debate about protection and ownership of personal health data. Nearly 25 percent of all companies detected 50 or more security incidents in the past year. Cybersecurity measures will have to focus on what consumers want – health data that is private, secure and accessible.
As the industry transforms, health organizations need to be ambidextrous and nimble. Their survival and success depend upon understanding their roles in a transparent, wired, consumer-centric future. Heading into 2015, there’s evidence this is beginning to happen. For the first time since HRI began asking, U.S. consumers ranked hospitals and healthcare second only to banks in customer satisfaction, a dramatic leap forward compared to previous years[i]. The ground – and the $2.8 trillion in U.S. healthcare spending – is shifting. In 2015, the industry will feel this shift deeply as it is forced to adjust to a growing New Health Economy.
Will Falk is North & South America Healthcare Leader at PwC and Trine Tsouderos is a director in PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI)
[i] PwC Health Research Institute, Top Issues Consumer Survey, 2014