PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Health Research Institute (HRI) released its annual list of the top healthcare issues for the coming year, and cybersecurity, mHealth and database analytical tools topped the list for 2016.
The annual list, this year titled “Thriving in the New Health Economy,” highlights the forces that are expected to have the most impact on the healthcare industry in the coming year and the report authors predict that 2016 will be a “year of firsts for healthcare consumers, organizations and new entrants,” as innovative tools and services enter the “New Health Economy.” Similar to last year’s list, HRI focused on health IT trends and tools as well as new payment models and medical cost calculations.
In 2016, millions of American consumers will have their first video consults, be prescribed their first health apps and use their smartphones as diagnostic tools for the first time. These new experiences will begin to make real the dream of care anywhere, anytime, changing consumer expectations and fueling innovation,” the HRI report authors stated.
The first trend on the list was “merger mania” and HRI predicts that high-profile mergers and acquisitions likely will continue in 2016, with regulators taking center stage in the debate over how consolidation impacts consumers.
On the health IT side of things, HRI listed mHealth, such as smartphones, connected medical accessories and apps, as a growing trend for 2016, noting that mHealth has been underutilized by the healthcare industry. The percentage of consumers with at least one medical, health or fitness app on their mobile devices has doubled in two years, HRI noted.
With the increased use of mobile devices and the move toward handheld medicine, HRI recommends that health systems should re-examine long-term capital investments in light of virtual medicine, “including moving from centralized brick-and-mortar plans to decentralized investments featuring partnerships and joint ventures.” HRI cites “bedless” hospitals and smartphone medicine as ways that health systems can deliver care remotely.
It’s no surprise that cybersecurity made the list as healthcare products, whether mobile apps or medical devices, increasingly are connected to the internet. The HRI report points out that connectivity comes with a price, namely, vulnerability to hackers and criminals. According to consumers polled by HRI, 38 percent of consumers would be wary of using a hospital associated with a hacked device. HRI recommends that providers keep devices updated, behind firewalls and on networks separated from key medical and personnel data.
New database tools also made the list of top 10 healthcare issues in 2016. As healthcare providers look to leverage big data, HRI predicts the growth of newer, “non-relational” databases that can convert large and diverse datasets into practical insights. HRI cites newer databases used by health systems such as Montefiore Medical Center and Children’s National Health System. And, these new database could boost the value of existing EHR systems and cut costs, HRI states.
“These databases are already being used by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to combine and analyze consumer health data with the goal of personalizing treatment and advancing medical knowledge,” the report authors state.
Other trends that made the top 10 list include cost accounting for medical care services, biosimilar drugs, or drugs that are near substitutes for original brand drugs, lowering the cost of prescription drugs and cost-effective strategies for behavioral health.