We polished our crystal balls and took a look at healthcare predictions for 2019. There’s a lot of technology on the horizon, mixed with drug delivery and pricing, the redefinition of care, and ongoing divisions in the political arena. As hospitals struggle with the pace of change, and some in a fight to survive situation, we assembled this digest of current thoughts on the future of healthcare in the year ahead.

healthcare predictions for 2019

When it comes to healthcare predictions for 2019, technology leads the way, with other important decisions looming this year.

Forbes writers looked into their crystal ball and generally observes that “In 2019, public health officials and policymakers and other key stakeholders, such as the pharmaceutical industry, health insurers, and healthcare providers, will be challenged to come up with constructive, lasting solutions to problems that have persistently plagued the healthcare system and the nation as a whole.” For the rest of the article, the focus was on drug pricing (could drop) and the “ascension of biosimilars”, where biosimilars are defined as a biologic medical product that is almost an identical copy of an original product that is manufactured by a different company.

Speaking of a possible drop in drug prices, the Washington Post has reported on how the current political winds are blowing in this direction. In an article entitled, “The Health 202: Congress and Trump may actually take action in 2019 to lower drug prices”, notes that there is “one vexing problem both parties say they want to solve: the high cost of prescription drugs in the United States.”  The editors believe that “hope is strong among health-care advocates and lawmakers that 2019 could be the year Congress and the executive branch finally make significant moves against the powerful prescription drug industry”. We agree and wondered what the hold-up might be. We found that there is at least one healthcare app built on blockchain, and that there has been a successful pilot program called MedRec has been working with information from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston to simulate what it would be like for two hospitals to exchange patient medication records on the blockchain.

At least one industry leader sees blockchain moving ahead for healthcare data security in 2019.  Becker’s Health IT & CEO Report quotes Lynn Carroll, Chief of Strategy and operations for health IT support company HSBlox, observing that blockchain is being seen already in “revenue cycle touchpoints, particularly as they relate to value-based reimbursement programs, will continue to grow. Patient integration — including the incorporation of edge-data device generated and patient-generated — will continue to advance population health and quality initiatives. The melding of artificial intelligence and machine learning with blockchain smart contracts will continue to push real-time capabilities throughout the healthcare ecosystem.”

Still another article at Becker’s details, “How blockchain could reshape the healthcare industry in 2019 “.  The long and short of it – It’s still in its infancy, but blockchain is up and coming. The article quotes Brian Kalis, managing director of digital health and innovation at strategy and consulting company Accenture, predicting that, “blockchain is the next hot technology to hit the healthcare market. While still a nascent technology in the industry, blockchain has potential to help healthcare providers and payers bridge traditional data silos, dramatically increase efficiencies, keep healthcare data secure and streamline patients’ access to medical data. By offering trusted, seamless and secure transfer of information, blockchain has the potential to reshape the healthcare industry in 2019.”

We found a longer list of predictions for healthcare in 2019 at Health Data Management’s site. The trends include:

  1. Using IT to help achieve patient engagement and experience
  2. Rising efforts to achieve digital health
  3. Accelerating the use of AI and data visualization
  4. The rising importance of population health management
  5. Growing efforts by payers to provide total care management
  6. Pressing on toward interoperability & value-based care
  7. Pushing to achieve EHR optimization
  8. Protecting health information and data security
  9. The rising tide for value-based care
  10. Growing the role for virtual care
  11. The increasing influence of the cloud
  12. Making wider use of clinical decision support and real-world evidence

In a related Forbes article on digital transformation trends In healthcare tor 2019, the editors take a fascinating look at virtual caregivers, telemedicine, digital appointment management and the rise of AI — Artificial Intelligence — in healthcare services.  In addition, writer Don Newman also mentions blockchain for healthcare data (a subject we continue to explore).  He notes that “blockchain has the potential to automatically provide the allowed doctors and specialists with a complete medical history so you can get the care you need.”

CNBC panelists discuss Healthcare in 2019

We found the above discussion about trends for healthcare in 2019.  The panelists discuss ending Obamacare, drug expansion (note that one columnist disagrees that drug prices might drop), and Healthcare for all.

For its part, Modern Healthcare has an article on how healthcare remains “divided” in 2019.  They note that “Hospitals want the Trump administration to more aggressively push executive authority to roll back red tape, particularly around the Stark law and accompanying regulations, which providers say stand in the way of some pay-for-value reforms, including building clinically integrated networks.”  However, the writers also see that “hospitals have also been quick to sue over what they claim is an executive overreach, such as in the case of HHS’ sweeping cuts to the controversial 340B drug discount program. Pharmaceutical discounts through the program yield tens of millions of dollars annually for a growing number of hospitals, and it has become a territorial fight.”

While reading an article in Healthcare Finance, we came across a prediction for 2019 about more possible hospital closures.  John Kupice, CEO of H-Source, an online marketplace for hospital groups to buy and sell medical supplies, is quoted noting that, “there could be 100 – 150 individual facility bankruptcies or shutdowns over the next 16-18 months. That could also include consolidations. Critical access and smaller hospitals are already underwater and looking for funding. They are vulnerable and trying to be creative in how they operate. Consolidation could be an avenue to survival.“

2019 is shaping up to be another year of fast-paced change and as always, SSI Group stands ready to meet uncertainty in the industry with solid revenue cycle management solutions that  stabilize hospitals and healthcare organization’s revenue flow.