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4 healthcare hot topics in 2014

Industry insiders share their predictions

David Weldon, Contributor

Editor's note: Since this post continues to receive search traffic we thought it would be better to link to the more recent list of healthcare issues.

Here is the updated list: Top issues for healthcare in 2015

Original story:

With the closing of 2013 and arrival of 2014, it is a time to look ahead at a few of the industry trends we can expect in the upcoming 12 months.

1. Insurance exchanges

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[See also: 2013 hot topics for healthcare financial administrators]

Despite the abysmal start of HealthCare.gov, thousands of Americans selected new insurance plans, getting one of the major aspects of the Affordable Care Act under way. Now the healthcare industry is waiting to see if the exchanges will work, said Tom Carden, a senior managing director at New Jersey-based Martin Healthcare Advisors.

The industry will be looking for answers to questions such as:

  • What are the real numbers in terms of people buying insurance?
  • What will it really mean in terms of economics?
  • Will it be more expensive/less expensive, more complicated/less complicated?

“It will all boil down to supply and demand. If there is more competition prices could fall. If there is less competition, prices could rise,” Carden said. “Next year will be a very pivotal year for the future of healthcare.”

2. Mergers and acquisitions

Consolidation is a perennial trend in healthcare and 2014 won’t be any different. In 2013, the healthcare industry saw robust M&A activity, though the overall value of the mergers and acquisitions declined slightly. The robust pace of 2013 is expected to carry into 2014, Carden said, though the ACA could impact volume. Some organizations may be less inclined to take on others if it means they will become a “large employer” under the ACA definition.

However, the debt and equity capital markets are expected to be strong in 2014, Carden said. “That’s going to foster new investments and allow companies to grow and continue to provide fuel for mergers and acquisitions.”

Cost of entry is still steep, though, which may lead providers to carve out new arrangements, such as forming joint ventures.

3. New payment models

Expect to see sustained growth in reimbursement models, including accountable care, bundled payments and shared savings, wrote Catherine Sreckovick, Navigant Healthcare Managing Director, in a blog for Navigant’s website.

4. Technology

“There is a push for the completion of the electronic patient record,” said Frank Trembulek, chief operating officer at Geisinger Health System. Interactive patients records and personalized medicine will come more to the forefront in 2014.