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Top Health Industry Trends for 2016

Consolidation, increased focus on value, and innovative tools and services head the list

2016 will be a year of firsts for health care as the industry adapts to forces driving the new health economy: the rise of consumerism, the focus on value, downward pressure on costs, technological innovation, and the impact of new entrants, according to the Health Research Institute (HRI) of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a professional services network.

In its annual report, PwC’s HRI identifies the top 10 forces that are expected to have the most impact on the health care industry in the coming year. Based on results from a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers and on interviews with health industry leaders, 10 issues stand out in the year ahead:

  • Remote Care

Care in the palms of consumers’ hands is expected to move beyond health monitoring –– providing diagnosis and treatment anywhere, anytime. From “bedless” hospitals to smartphone medicine, a growing share of care will be delivered remotely.

  • New Money Managers

As consumers begin to manage their health spending like they manage their retirement savings, companies may look for creative ways to solve payment problems. This could include bundling innovative financing with other offerings that cater to consumers’ demands for convenience and value.

  • New Data Bases Improve Patient Care

High hopes for big data investments in health care may have been unrealistic. There is a real challenge in converting large and diverse datasets into practical insights. However, in 2016, with the emergence of “non-relational” databases, this could change, and health organizations may finally be able to use the reams of data they have collected.

  • Care Moves to the Community

With mounting budget pressures, health systems may pursue lower-cost care settings. During the past 2 years, five of the top 15 academic medical centers have acquired community hospitals. The rise of retail clinics should also continue. Seventy-four percent of clinicians surveyed said that these types of nontraditional venues improve access to care. Sixty-seven percent of consumers who have used retail clinics were “very satisfied” with their experience.

  • Behavioral Health Care

Behavioral health should be a key issue in 2016 as one out of five American adults experiences a mental illness every year. These conditions cost U.S. businesses more than $440 billion annually. Employers and health care organizations may address behavioral health care to keep costs down, productivity up, and consumers healthy.

  • Biosimilars

Biosimilars will reach the U.S. market in 2016, offering a discount from biologic specialty drug costs. Four more biosimilars are poised for approval, with another 50 in the FDA review process. These substitutes for branded biologic drugs will begin to offer some counterweight to rising drug prices.

  • Merger Mania

By mid-year 2015, health care deals had broken records set in 2014, with nearly $400 billion in agreements announced. Unconventional partnerships across the industry should dominate 2016. Pharmaceutical companies may look to acquire beyond-the-pill products and services to bolster their portfolios and pipelines. Collaborations between independent hospitals and clinician groups/top-tier health systems will provide more consumer touchpoints.

  • The Medical Cost Mystery

Health systems often can’t identify the cost of the services they provide, but in 2016 they may face pressure to unlock the mystery of true costs as stakeholders push for value. This will be more than just an exercise to control spending –– it could help uncover opportunities to become more efficient and improve care.

  • Cybersecurity

In 2016, medical devices –– from mobile apps to insulin pumps –– may see real threats from hackers and criminals in 2016. Device companies and health care providers will need to be proactive to maintain trust in medical equipment. Network architecture and designs will be critical to preventing breaches that could cripple the industry.

  • Drug Prices

Drug pricing has reached a boiling point in the U.S. With the rise of high-deductible health care plans, consumer frustrations are likely to increase. Under the threat of government action, pharmaceutical companies may contemplate new models in 2016. Their focus may be on conveying value, on justifying the cost of drugs through complementary programs, or on considering alternative financing models.

Source: PwC; December 9, 2015.

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