Empowered consumers, rapid innovation and increasing competition are among PwC’s top health industry issues for 2014, the company announced last week during a webinar.
In order to identify the top 10 business issues facing the U.S. healthcare sector this year, PwC analyzed polling data collected from 1,000 consumers and interviews with healthcare industry experts in the fall of 2013.
[See also: 4 healthcare hot topics in 2014]
The top 10 issues are:
1. Companies rethink their roles in the new health economy
2. Corporate funds invade healthcare venture capital space
3. Employers explore private exchanges
4. Industry picks up the pace of price transparency
5. Social, mobile, analytics and cloud come together
6. Technology is the new workforce multiplier
7. Twenty-first century tools refresh clinical trials
8. Fail fast, frequently and frugally for true innovation
9. States pursue Medicaid managed long-term care
10. New rules combat counterfeit drugs
Consumers are a bigger influence than ever, the PwC said, pushing for price transparency and exercising choice, forcing healthcare companies to adapt.
This year, the PwC believes that consumers will begin to demand better customer service through integrated social, mobile analytics and cloud technologies. Currently, only 18 percent of companies are maximizing the use of smartphones apps to integrate patient data into clinician workflows and EHRs, and only 27 percent of physicians are encouraging patients to use mobile health applications, according to the report.
[See also: U.S. health spending to jump in 2014]
Ceci Connolly, managing director of the Health Research Institute, said during last week’s webinar that when it comes to price transparency for consumers, businesses are striking exclusive arrangements with providers for high-value care, and the federal government has opened its books on what hospitals bill for relatively common treatments.
“Employers have continued to push much more price transparency in healthcare,” said Connolly. “The name of the game in healthcare is value and what you are getting for that dollar. Consumers are a bit frustrated that they don’t have the price transparency that they would like. We anticipate that some of this frustration is going to have an impact on the healthcare sector.”
When it comes to companies rethinking their roles as the healthcare industry is changing – identified as the top issue of 2014 – the PwC report notes that some insurers, such as EmblemHealth, are acquiring provider groups; some provider systems, like Sutter Health, are now entering the insurance business themselves; and some retail pharmacies are expanding their product and service offerings by growing their retail clinics.
And while lower on the list, long-term care is still top-of-mind, said Connolly, the number of Americans age 85 and older is projected to triple by 2050 to nearly 18 million people. Given the approaching influx, 26 states are projected to have a Medicaid long-term care program, up from eight 10 years ago, Connolly noted.
“We are seeing a very significant increase in Medicaid long-term care programs,” she said. “For many companies, this is a chance to explore what these new opportunities are in Medicaid. There are also many initiatives targeting those eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. The government is looking for creative ways of offering incentives around these dual-eligibles by focusing on community-based care and even home care.”