PwC: 12 trends to shape healthcare in 2018

New trends in technology, changing policy and a shift in how providers view patients will be driving forces in the healthcare industry in 2018, according to PwC Health Research Institute.

2017 brought threats virtual and actual, from ransomware to natural disasters, and potential political change brought another kind of threat — uncertainty. These factors will continue to influence the top issues of next year for healthcare providers, as they seek to build resistance through cross-sector collaboration, strategic investments and new efficiencies.

Here are the top 12 trends PwC believes will take the spotlight next year for healthcare executives.  

1. Healthcare executives are increasingly investing in artificial intelligence and machine learning. These technologies are most likely to come into play for organizations seeking efficiencies in areas like back-office operations or supply chain.

2. Healthcare reform will likely continue on Capitol Hill. The biggest potential disrupter would be a change in Medicaid spending, according to PwC. Providers should also watch politics at the state level, as states may gain more freedom to shape policy under the Trump administration.

3. Medicare Advantage growth will continue as more baby boomers age up. MA providers will feel increased pressure to meet quality standards set by CMS.

4. Middlemen, like pharmacy benefit managers and wholesalers, will be required to underscore their value as health systems look for more ways to become financially agile. Providers should seek contracts based on outcomes, rather than value with middlemen, PwC advises.

5. The opioid crisis will be a continued target across the industry. Providers should seek to enhance addiction resources, offer other treatments for chronic pain and bolster patient management to help address the issue.

6. In 2017, hospitals increasingly became a target for ransomware and other cyberthreats. The government reported a 525 percent increase in medical device cybersecurity vulnerabilities — a threat PwC believes will continue into next year. It advises providers to establish policies for "internet of things" devices and train staff.

7. Patient experience will continue to be a priority. Almost half of executives told PwC in a survey this will be a top priority over the next five years, and as a result, the firm expects more chief patient experience officer roles to crop up and for systems to put increased focus on employee satisfaction as well.

8. Price transparency legislation is likely to change regulations next year as a strategy to address rising healthcare costs. Providers should keep track of state regulations and keep an eye out for nontraditional alliances, such as a consumer group and a payer partnering to tackle price transparency.

9. As population health management and value-based care continue to be a focus, health systems will increasingly look to managing social determinants of health, according to PwC. This may mean screening for food insecurity, offering discounted housing or targeting care interventions to disenfranchised patient populations. However, 78 percent of executives say they need more data to address these needs.

10. Changes at the Food and Drug Administration, especially under the 21st Century Cures Act will change the way drug and medical device companies gain approvals. This could lead to more nontraditional partnerships, according to PwC.

11. The hurricanes and wildfires of 2017 devastated many hospitals, displaced workforces and upset revenue cycles. As health systems in Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and the Western U.S. continue to pick up the pieces, many others will likely ramp up preparation for potential natural disasters in their regions.

12. Tax reform will require new strategies and updates to financial reporting systems. PwC expects the reduction of the corporate tax rate and the repeal of the estate tax to be two major disruptors for hospitals.


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