As has become a tradition here at Providence, we're kicking off the New Year by sharing our annual list of predictions for the health care sector. What can you expect in 2020? The presidential elections, the race to create the care experience of the future, the social issues that affect health, and heightened consumer expectations will all play a role.
As a result, providers will feel more intense pressure to accelerate the transformation of health care. The question is whether health systems can pivot fast enough. In 2020, providers that can get ahead of the major trends will be best positioned to meet the future needs of their communities. Here are our top 10 predictions for 2020.
1. The value of health system consolidation will come to fruition in the form of large scale improvements in clinical quality and outcomes.
One of the most important reasons health systems have consolidated in recent years is to improve clinical quality and spread best practice across scale. Because clinical integration takes time, this will be the year that significant results begin coming to fruition. For example, Providence has leveraged its seven-state system to reverse the alarming national rise in U.S. mothers dying in childbirth. Thanks to collaboration among its clinical teams, Providence is one of the safest places for moms to give birth, having nearly eliminated preventable maternal deaths over the last three years. At the same time, Providence has reduced the cost of caring for moms covered by Medicaid, as well as the cost of NICU care. Expect more examples of improved outcomes and costs to emerge in 2020 as proven practices in other clinical areas begin bearing fruit on a large scale.
2. Corporate social responsibility will take on a bigger role in tackling homelessness, suicide, the opioid crisis and other social issues that affect health.
More companies will partner with health systems, government agencies, social services and other nonprofits to take action on the social determinants of health. Be Well OC is one example of the type of coalition that will make a significant impact in 2020. The public-private partnership in Orange County, Calif., brings diverse organizations together to meet the urgent need for mental health and addiction services in the community. Meanwhile, in cities like Seattle, Wash., health systems like Providence are partnering with the business community and other not-for-profits to address the growing homelessness epidemic.
3. Personalized medicine and population health, two seemingly opposite approaches to health care, will begin working hand in hand to improve outcomes in the U.S.
The path to a healthier nation will be accelerated by treating both the unique needs of the individual down to the DNA level, as well as common issues shared by people in similar demographics. Health systems like Providence, for example, are using genomics to pinpoint a person’s biologic age, as well as tailor medical interventions to the individual. At the same time, Providence is coordinating care and resources across broad segments of people through steps such as cancer screenings and improving access to housing and nutrition. Combining the power of these two disciplines will help catapult the health of the nation.
4. Health systems will prioritize digital access to care, convenience and personalization to compete with disruptors and collaborate with big tech.
Delivering same-day access to care – how, when and where people want it – will be a burning priority for health systems in 2020. New entrants will continue to disrupt the space and raise consumer expectations. Leading health systems like Providence will stay ahead of the curve with digital platforms that integrate telehealth, its in-store clinics at Walgreens and its vast network of specialty, primary care and urgent care clinics across the Western U.S. To help patients navigate these care options, Providence will also continue to develop its artificial intelligence capability, making its AI bot, “Grace,” more pervasive, helpful and capable. Providence will also continue to engage patients between episodes of care by providing personalized content and services to keep them healthy while developing a long-term, digitally engaged relationship with patients.
5. As more health systems partner with tech companies to bring health care into the digital age, patients will count on providers to serve as the guardians of their personal health information.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence will raise the potential for new breakthroughs in medicine and care delivery, and data will be key to this level of innovation. But whether tech companies are prioritizing the best interest of patients will remain a lingering question for the American public. Patients will look to providers to be their voice and advocates when it comes to protecting their health information. Expect providers to stand up for data privacy and security and take the lead in ensuring data is used responsibly for the common good.
6. The race to bring voice-activated technology to health care will heat up and will be a central feature in the hospital and clinic of the future.
Just as Alexa and Siri are transforming the way we live our personal lives, voice and natural language processing are the future of health care. Expect innovation to accelerate around smart clinics and hospitals that make it easier for clinicians to treat and care for patients. Voice commands that process and analyze information will support clinical decision making at the bedside and the exam room. As part of a new partnership between Providence and Microsoft to build the “care site of the future,” clinical communications and voice-activated technology will be a central feature.
7. Simplifying the electronic medical record will become a rallying cry for clinicians.
With burnout on the rise among physicians, nurses and other caregivers, reducing the time it takes to chart in the electronic medical record will be key to improving the work environment for clinicians. Shifting the national conversation from EMR “interoperability” to “usability” will take on greater urgency. A simplified, more intuitive EMR means clinicians can spend less time on the computer and more time focused directly on patients, creating a better experience for clinicians and the patients they serve.
8. The health care workforce will need to continue to evolve and adopt new skill sets. At the same time, talent shortages will become more pronounced.
As the sector changes at a rapid pace, the health care workforce will need to add new skill sets to keep up with innovations in medicine and care delivery. Clinicians will also need to become more proficient in managing the social determinants of health and caring for the whole person, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Health systems will seek to stay competitive in a tough labor market by offering attractive pay and benefit packages. A commitment to investing in education and career development, as well as creating engaging work environments, will also be a key focus for retaining and recruiting top talent.
9. Price transparency will remain a hot issue. But the focus needs to shift to giving patients the information they want most: what their out-of-pocket costs will be.
Patients deserve to know what their health care costs will be up front, so they can make informed decisions as they shop for care. Rather than inundating them with a deluge of prices and negotiated rates for hundreds of services that may or may not be relevant to their personal situation, more emphasis needs to be placed on helping them understand what their specific out-of-pocket costs will be. The amount individuals pay is typically based on their insurance coverage. That’s why health systems like Providence are actively developing price estimator tools and self-service portals, based on blockchain and AI technology, to help patients more quickly and easily access this information.
10. New alternatives to “Medicare for All” will emerge in the presidential debates. One viable option that should be taken seriously: free primary care for every American.
In the 2020 elections, concerns will be raised over whether Americans will lose their private commercial or employer-sponsored insurance under a Medicare for All plan. A new campaign platform — free primary care for all — should be considered as a more effective, affordable alternative. By guaranteeing access to primary care, the nation can focus on prevention, chronic disease management and helping Americans live their healthiest life possible. Providence is participating in the current administration’s innovative primary care pilots, which are showing positive results in terms of better outcomes and reduced costs.