Our favorite post of the year is this one. As analysts, we come together with our propeller hats on to collectively look ahead at the key trends in the year to come in the healthcare sector. While there are any number of predictions one might make for this dynamic market, we will stick to what we know best: Healthcare IT and the broader issues that influence this sector.
Following is our annual Baker’s Dozen. As always, love getting your feedback in the comment section. Let the dialog begin.
Merger & acquisition activity continues; Humana or Cigna acquired.
Major mergers and acquisitions that mark the end of 2017 (CVS-Aetna, Dignity Health-CHI and rumored Ascension-Providence) will spill over into 2018. Both Humana and Cigna will be in play, and one of them will be acquired or merged in 2018.
Retail health clinics grow rapidly, accounting for 5 percent of primary care encounters.
Hot on the health heels of CVS’ acquisition of Aetna, growth in retail health reignites, albeit off a low overall footprint. By end of 2018, retail health clinic locations will exceed 3,000 and account for ~5% of all primary care encounters; up from 1,800 and ~2%, respectively, in 2015.
Apple buys a telehealth vendor.
In a bid to one-up Samsung’s partnership with American Well, and in a bid to establish itself as the first tech giant to disrupt healthcare delivery, Apple will acquire a DTC telehealth vendor in 2018.
Sixty percent of ACOs struggle to break even.
Despite investments in population health management (PHM) solutions, payers still struggle with legacy back-end systems that hinder timely delivery of actionable claims data to provider organizations. The best intentions for value-based care will flounder, and 60% of ACOs will struggle to break even. ACO formation will continue to grow, albeit more slowly, to mid-single digits in 2018 to just under 1,100 nationwide (up from 923 as of March 2017).
Every major EHR vendor delivers some level of FHIR support, but write access has to wait until 2019.
While some of the major EHR vendors have announced support for write access sometime this year and will definitely deliver this support to their most sophisticated customers, broad-based use of write APIs will happen after 2018. HCOs will be wary about willy-nilly changes to the patient record until they see how the pioneers fare.
Cloud deployment chips away at on-premises and vendor-hosted analytics.
True cloud-based deployments from name brand vendors such as AWS and Azure are in the minority today. But their price-performance advantages are undeniable to HIT vendors. Cerner will begin to incent its HealtheIntent customers to cloud host on AWS. Even Epic will dip its toes in the public cloud sometime in 2018, probably with some combination of Healthy Planet, Caboodle, and/or Kit.
True condition management remains outside providers’ orbit.
Providers will continue to lag behind payers and self-insured employers in adopting condition management solutions. There are two key reasons why: In particular, CMS reluctance to reimburse virtual Diabetes Prevention Programs, and in general, the less than 5% uptake for the CMS chronic care management billing code. In doing so, providers risk further isolation from value-based efforts to improve outcomes while controlling costs.
Mobile-first becomes dominant platform for over 75% of care management solutions.
Mobile accessibility is critical for dynamic care management, especially across the ambulatory sector. More than 75% of provider-focused care management vendors will have an integrated, proprietary mobile application for patients and caregivers by end of 2018. These mobile-enabled solutions will also facilitate collection of patient-reported outcome measures, with 50% of solutions offering this capability in 2018.
Solutions continue to document SDoH but don’t yet account for them.
A wide range of engagement, PHM, EHR, and care management solutions will make progress on documenting social determinants of health, but no more than 15% of solutions in 2018 will be able to automatically alter care plan interventions based on SDoH in 2018.
ONC defines enforcement rules for “data blocking,” but potential fines do little to change business dynamics that inhibit data liquidity.
The hard iron core of this issue is uncertainty about its real impact. No one know what percentage of patients or encounters are impacted when available data is rendered unavailable – intentionally or unintentionally. Data blocking definitely happen,s but most HCOs will rightly wonder about feds willingness to go after the blockers. The Office of the National Coordinator might actually make some rules, but there will be zero enforcement in 2018.
PHM solution market see modest growth of 5-7%.
Providers will pull back on aggressive plans to broadly adopt and deploy PHM solution suites, leading to lackluster growth in the PHM market of 5%to 7% in 2018. Instead, the focus will be on more narrow, specific, business-driven use cases, such as standing up an ACO. In response, provider-centric vendors will pivot to the payer market, which has a ready appetite for PHM solutions, especially those with robust clinical data management capabilities.
In-workflow care gap reminders replace reports and dashboards as the primary way to help clinicians meet quality and utilization goals.
This is a case where the threat of alert fatigue is preferable to the reality of report fatigue. Gaps are important, and most clinicians want to address them, but not at the cost of voluminous dashboards or reports. A single care gap that is obvious to the clinician opening a chart is worth a thousand reports or dashboards. By the end of 2018, reports and dashboards will no longer be delivered to front-line clinicians except upon request.
At least two dozen companies gain FDA-approval of products using Machine Learning in clinical decision support, up from half a dozen in 2017.
Arterys, Quantitative Insights, Butterfly Network, Zebra Medical Vision, EnsoData, and iCAD all received FDA approval for their AI-based solutions in 2017. This is just the start of AI’s future impact in radiology. Pioneer approvals in 2017 — such as Quantitative Insights’ QuantX Advanced breast CADx software and Arterys’s medical imaging platform — will be joined by many more in 2018 as vendors look to leverage the powerful abilities of AI/ML to reduce labor costs and improve outcomes dependent on digital image analysis.
What are your healthcare market predictions for 2018?