The sluggish recovery
The “Great Recession” which began in mid-2007 devastated the U.S. economy, and recovery has been slow and jobless. So, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the healthcare sector is doing better than other sectors that’s probably not going to translate into lots of new jobs.
The rapidly changing payment environment
Right now, the healthcare industry isn’t just worried about the slow recovery, it’s worried about the loss of employer-sponsored insurance; insurance plan redesigns; decreases in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements; how (and if) ACOs will work; and how ACA-mandated health insurance exchanges will work.
According to J.B. Silvers, PhD, professor of healthcare finance at the Case Weatherhead School of Management and the School of Medicine, those trends have created high anxiety in the healthcare industry. “Risk tolerance … has gone to the ceiling,” he added.
The changing hospital landscape
According to recent reports from the Center for Studying Health System Change, there’s a widening gap between large-system hospitals (the haves), which are able to dominate markets, and small and/or safety-net hospitals (the have-nots), which were struggling with capacity and financial pressures even before the economic downturn. Noted one report, hospitals in the latter group “face mounting challenges depending on how long the recession’s effects linger and how implementation of national health reform proceeds … [and possible] loss of federal Medicaid funds.”
Relentless cost containment
According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report, “cost deflators” will be ramped up. This includes the use of market clout to bring down personnel, supply and equipment costs; new methods for delivering primary care; and greater use of generic drugs.
The looming doctor shortage
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, we are headed into an unprecedented doctor shortage due to the expansion of insurance coverage under health reform and aging baby boomers (the Silver Tsunami) driving demand, especially for primary care physicians.
Consumers’ expanding role in cost containment
According to business/health expert Amy Gallagher, vice president at Cornerstone Group, which advises large employers on long-term healthcare costs, as plans are restructured consumers will have more incentives “to shop services by setting (i.e. how much an MRI costs in a hospital setting versus a free-standing facility), or how much the same prescription is at one pharmacy versus a competing retail chain.” And that will lead to “decreased claims costs.”
IT impact on health promotion and prevention
According to a recent AT&T report, 2013 will see an upswing in remote telehealth and patient monitoring apps, in part to “bridge the significant gap between physician resources and patient demand.” But it will also be due to the fact that insurance companies, healthcare providers and employers will be pushing their use, because they can bring down healthcare costs.
The new role “retail” will play in healthcare
According to Bart Foster, founder and CEO of SoloHealth, a health technology company focused on improving access to care, consumers will become increasingly more comfortable and adept at seeking healthcare and preventive services outside the healthcare system. “From pharmacies to in-store clinics and healthcare kiosks, retail establishments [such as] Walgreens to Walmart to Safeway will play vital roles to connect with consumers for better healthcare access, awareness and treatments.”
© Health Callings, Dice Holdings Inc., 2012