Much braver than I am, PWC’s Health Research Institute identifies ten significant issues and possible outcomes for the health industry in 2017. (PWC Report) Uncertainty about what the new administration and Congress may do with regard to the ACA and other health concerns is at the top of the list. While a full repeal of the law would certainly be dramatic, it would likely be paired with an immediate re-passage of most of its provisions. The real uncertainty surrounds the Medicaid expansion and the individual and employer mandates. And because the prior Administration loved raising taxes, there is a lot of revenue tied up in the ACA, the loss of which would exacerbate the federal deficit. The second issue–how drug companies will adapt to concerns over their pricing and the value of their products. According to the HRI, they will do this be engaging patients more directly through apps, etc. Kind of similar to what they did with DTC ads. Disgraceful. The third issue is the continued march to value-based payments, which so far aren’t clearly saving money or improving quality. And as providers figure out they may be able to make even more money under these systems, they probably will spread.
The next issue highlighted is the payment process and security issues related to that. As patients get more cost-sharing, figuring out how they can find the money and know what to pay is an issue. And health care has been weak on cybersecurity. Next up, preparing for emerging technologies, like AI, augmented reality, drones, the internet of things, robots, etc. The grumpy skeptic in me says this is nothing but hype til the value is proven, I mean really proven. And getting lots of investor dollars isn’t proving value. The sixth issue is the battle against infectious disease, where new treatments are clearly needed. Next, the importance of nutrition in health gets highlighted more in 2017. Sure, everyone’s product has something to do with health, so lets see if we can sell more of it at higher prices by claiming it has health benefits. Eighth, HRI thinks drugs companies will be more cautious about price increases in 2017. Meaning they will only go up, say 10%, instead of 20%. Very hard on the industry. Next up, continued search for new partnerships and collaborations, whether by merger and acquisition or just contractual, as consolidation continues. And finally, medical students get more training to prepare for the new value-based world.