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More healthcare issues to watch in 2015: Your responses

Strategic growth through consolidation, optimizing care by finding ways to become more efficient providers make experts' list of issues.

Henry Powderly, Editor-in-Chief

Strategic growth through consolidation, optimizing care by finding ways to become more efficient providers make experts' list of healthcare issues to watch in 2015.Strategic growth through consolidation, optimizing care by finding ways to become more efficient providers make experts' list of healthcare issues to watch in 2015.

We asked; you answered.

In the past week we've gotten some great responses to our question about what healthcare insiders expect to shape much of 2015, touching on hot topics like ICD-10 and value-based payment structures. Check out some of the more interesting answers posted below.

If you'd like to add your own issues to the list, we'll keep the form open until Friday. Upcoming questions will focus on patient engagement issues, and the looming ICD-10 deadline.

Eric J Powers, CEO of Healthcare Finance Direct

"We believe that credit underwriting for patient responsibility will become more prevalent and propensity to pay models will be utilized in a far more objective manner," he wrote in his answer to Healthcare Finance. "Contracts for payment will be signed by patients allowing longer payment terms and carry interest and penalties for non-payment as agreed. There will be far more scrutiny placed on charitable care and ability to pay. Providers will be subject to more regulatory scrutiny as they look more like lenders and will need to comply with installment sale regulations on a state to state basis when taking 4 or more payments from patients."

Jim Lacy, CFO secretary and counsel at ZirMed

"The continuing shifts in how healthcare organizations are structured and how these organizations work with independent providers will catapult data aggregation and clinical integration into much higher places on healthcare executives’ priority lists," he wrote in response to our questionnaire. "In 2012 there were 300 or so ACOs, either commercial or government-sponsored. Now there are well over 500. These are huge, massively complex entities made up of hundreds if not thousands of providers, all of whom need to share data. Even more astonishing is the scale of that clinical and financial data. Managing it is going to require more sophisticated cloud-based technology; to manage it effectively and truly extract value from it is going to require capabilities that are still new to healthcare, namely applied mathematics and predictive analytics." 

"No matter where you look in healthcare, you can see the common thread of managing and leveraging Big Data, and in every case that data as well as the demand for it are poised to grow significantly in 2015. ICD-10 will increase codes fivefold; patients will continue to demand greater electronic access to their health information and secure electronic communication with their providers; providers will continue to be incentivized to share data more effectively and in some cases they’ll be penalized if they don’t (or if they can’t). What’s exciting is that all of this is part and parcel of the incredible energy across healthcare -- and across all players in healthcare -- to strengthen the continuum of care. Everyone agrees we have to get costs under control; no one can dispute the need to advance patient outcomes and better manage population health. What I see in 2015 are more providers, payers, and patients realizing how critical cloud-based technology is to those efforts; or perhaps a better way to say that is that I see increasing demand for the capabilities and benefits that only cloud-based technology can deliver.”

Wil Limp, Department Chair, Health information Management, Davenport University

The Michigan-based educator listed "value-based purchasing, Physicial Quality Reporting System, staying on track with Meaingful Use Stage 2, Clinical Quality Measures and educating current students for jobs of the future," as top issues for the year.

Jeff Jones, managing director of Huron Consulting Group

Jones listed five issues in his response: "1. The shifting payer mix will increase pressure on costs -- CEOs expect payer-mix trend lines to continue shifting, creating new pressure to reduce costs; 2. Disruptive innovators will compete for price-conscious consumers -- Competing with disruptive innovators will requiring focusing on fundamentals: optimizing efficient, lowering cost and improving quality; 3. Payer and provider lines will continue to blur -- As the payment model transitions, providers will look at taking on additional risk through potential payer partnerships; 4. Patient engagement and patient loyalty will be increasingly important -- Highly engaged and loyal patients are associated with better outcomes and lower costs; 5. Building new data capabilities will require a strong strategic focus -- Data analytics is becoming increasingly important and leaders face the challenge of strategically enhancing these capabilities through planning and investment."

Chris Fox, president of Avantas

"Limiting the conversation to healthcare workforce management, there are several interconnected trends that will continue to play out this year. These include increased emphasis on reducing labor costs, the slow but steady transition from inpatient to outpatient services driving the market, and continued consolidation of health system and medical groups via mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships," he wrote in his response.

"Increased outpatient demand will begin to shine a light on the need to improve efficiencies within that sector. Continued consolidation of medical groups coupled with increases in volume will drive the need to standardize processes and workflows (including the rethinking of staffing models and other long-accepted business practices) as well as better coordinate staff across the enterprise to effectively adjust to patient volumes that are more difficult to predict and spread across many more, albeit smaller facilities. This improved staff coordination could mean the transition of FTEs from inpatient to outpatient areas as well as the development of more flexible forms of contingency that can function system wide in a number of capacities and departments. Flexibility to adjust to both forecasted and in-the-moment volume fluctuations will be of increasing importance for providers walking the fine line between cost and quality in a market that continues to rapidly transform itself."

Jack Eskenazi Jr., managing partner at Healthcare Advisory Partners

"We're seeing consolidation driven by strategic growth rather than accretive growth. Buyers are making acquisitions across the continuum of care to optimize patient coordination and payment bundling as risk based models of care are implemented."

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