Consolidation in the form of mergers and acquisitions was voted as the top healthcare trend of the year in a new survey conducted by Definitive Healthcare.
Consumerism was also voted one of the top healthcare trends, but it came in at a distant second. Of the 1,000 health leaders surveyed, more than 25 percent identified consolidation as the top trend while consumerism garnered about 14 percent of the votes.
Telehealth, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and wearables rounded out the list.
Even though M&A activity has slowed in recent quarters, health professionals don't expect the slowdown to last, anticipating more consolidation activity in the year to come. In 2018, Definitive Healthcare, which provides data and intelligence to healthcare providers, tracked 803 mergers and acquisitions and 858 affiliation and partnership announcements, and it expects the trend to continue.
Consumerism ranked highly because patients are increasingly transforming into consumers who seek lower costs and convenience from their care providers. Providers will have to work harder than ever to find and retain their patient populations.
Next, with 13.8 percent of the votes, the survey revealed telehealth to be the third most important healthcare trend in 2019. According to Definitive Healthcare's 2017 Inpatient Telemedicine Study, more than 70 percent of consumers would rather use video than visit their primary care provider in person.
AI and machine learning (11.2 percent), staffing shortages (11.1 percent), cybersecurity (9.5 percent), and EHR optimization and ancillary technologies (9.5 percent) fell to the middle of the pack, with less than 12 percent of the votes each.
Hospital mergers and acquisitions activity in the first quarter of 2019 was sluggish -- so sluggish, in fact, that the number of transactions were at their lowest total since the fourth quarter of 2019. It's also the first time since the third quarter of 2016 that there were fewer than 20 announced transactions.
All told, there were just 14 deals in the first quarter, according to a report from Ponder & Co. And it was the fourth straight quarter in which M&A was lower than the annual quarterly average.