To talk about the American health care system is to grossly oversimplify things. There is no single health care system in the United States, or even in any single state. There are federal hospitals and clinics, such as the Veterans Affairs hospital system, there are public and private hospitals and clinics, specialty hospitals and standalone emergency rooms, private practices and co-ops. Bills are paid out of pocket, through private and public insurance, and through charities. The quality of care can also vary wildly from hospital to hospital and from region to region.
Yet, there are some trends that are going to affect all of these various systems within what we broadly call the healthcare system.
The most notable change is that hospitals and clinics are now going to have to post prices online. Posting hospital rates will allow potential patients to shop around, and when patients start selecting doctors, clinics, and hospitals based on price, people may rest assured that hospitals will start competing with each other to lower prices. However, given that many prices are negotiated between insurance (public and private) and healthcare providers after the services have been rendered, it is hard to tell exactly how these price dynamics will work themselves out.
Telemedicine has already been making an impact, and it is only going to have a more significant effect in 2019. Telemedicine is extremely attractive to insured patients because they will not have to leave the house in order to get a diagnosis or prescription—and they will not have to pay a co-pay. This makes it a no-cost alternative for simple issues like strep throat—and the fact that insurance is providing it for free implies they are saving a great deal of money when patients use it as well.
Another big trend will be value/outcome-based care. Today most care involves putting out whatever current fires there are in the patient’s health. What matters—and what matters for helping keep costs down—is keeping the patient healthy. More long-term views of patient health will likely drive healthcare industry changes this year.
Blockchain and AI are also poised to finally start making a real difference in the healthcare field. AI is going to make data more useful for hospitals, helping facilities know which groups to target, and to find more—and more complex—patterns in that data. This will help make health care more personalized. Blockchain will also greatly improve the network effect of data and data sharing.
These are just a few of the innovations we should expect to see emerging in 2019 to change the experience of health care. As data becomes smarter and more efficient, the entire system will be able to make better use of available and innovative technology.
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