It is the time for predictions for the health care industry in 2016. PWC’s Health Research Institute issues its top trends for 2016 Report. (PWC Report) This group generally is fascinated with technology in all its forms; must be whatever audience they are trying to impress. Trend number one for 2016 is supposedly more mega-mergers. Uhhh, who’s left to merge at this point. Number two is drug prices. Yes they are getting higher, so what really can be done about it, they have been getting higher for decades. The underpinning is our patent system–if you change that do you really think people will keep working as much on new compounds, some of which are transformative to current treatments. Trend number 3, mobile apps. Need I say more. Issue 4, cybersecurity. Trend 5, money management innovations in regard to greater consumer cost-sharing. Trend 6, the importance of behavioral health care. At our rate of diagnosis-creep, every American will have at least one mental health problem. Lets take a shortcut and just agree that we are all crazy and that excuses all our inappropriate or irresponsible behavior. Good luck getting patients more involved in their health care with that approach. Next up, number 7, care moves to the community, aided by our great new technologies. Yep, all those expensive people with serious dementia can be cared for in their homes. And every person’s bedroom can be turned into a hospital room. It does make sense to deliver and manage care in people’s homes but there are limits to how much this can occur, and most research has not found either significant cost savings or better health outcomes by doing this. Trend 8, new databases to improve care. Yawn. Love potion number 9, biosimilars. And finally, hey, what are our medical costs? It is true that a lot of providers don’t understand their own cost structures and could do much better in managing them. Will this get passed on to payers? Why would it.
Reports like this bring out the real cynic in me. It is hard to take much of this too seriously. Most of these “trends” relate to relatively affluent, relatively well-educated, relatively healthy people. Sorry, but that is not where our health spending problems are and all the apps and other technology in the world isn’t going to help address the bigger problems. In 2015 health care spending accelerated largely because of utilization growth. In 2016 watch out for signs that unit prices rise more sharply for services, as they already have for drugs. What a great combination that will be–more utilization at higher prices.