10 Predictions for How the Healthcare Industry Will Change in 2017

Every year, I offer my annual predictions for what to expect to change in the healthcare industry in the year ahead. So, get an early look at 2017 and start preparing for what’s right around the corner.

1. Significant changes to the ACA (Obamacare) are certain under President Trump. While he campaigned on a promise of completely abolishing and repealing the ACA, the extent of actual changes, and the proposal of alternatives is still to be determined. After all, insuring the health of a whole society poses difficult questions. While many of these changes may be good for the industry, others may not as the populous still want price controls, and President-elect Trump has proven willing to satiate the electorate and go after any industry. It would be wise for pharma to not egregiously misstep and fuel a fire around pricing. The only constant will be change, and we should see change quickly. We live in interesting times.

2. Inflection point for digital health. As devices proliferate and scale their capabilities, we will see increasing attempts to submit for FDA labeling some combination of pill + device + service. While initially, these submissions may slightly delay time to market, long-term trial results should be both better and shortened with a comprehensive approach to managing the patient. This bundled service will create new life for pharma, improve competitive differentiation, and extend patent protection. Most importantly, these bundled services will contribute to better patient outcomes.

3. Increased collaboration and partnership with payers towards improving patient outcomes. As digital health evolves, pharma and its payer customer increasingly align to the same side of the table to drive better outcomes. Even with changes to the ACA, the drive towards patient outcomes will persist because of momentum, and simply because it’s the right way to address healthcare.

4. Telemedicine goes from pilot to practice to eventually mainstream. As more payers reimburse for virtual interactions, telemedicine will come of age. Disruption first dismantled the hospital, and will next work on the physician’s office. Soon, like online banking and smartphones, we’ll wonder how we ever lived without telemedicine.

5. With pharmaceutical salesforces becoming less effective due to highly restricted access, the shifting from personal to non-personal promotion (NPP) will continue. As digital marketing agencies become astute in identifying and targeting specific, authenticated physician lists, digital engagement tools and targeted messaging will play an increasing role in non-personal promotion.

6. Programmatic ad spending for pharmaceutical companies will more than double. While pharma spending in programmatic is small today, the rest of the world spends the majority of its digital budgets on programmatic advertising. Even if the industry doubles its spending in this area, it will still keep pharma way out of parity with other industries. But the more aggressive marketers will avail themselves of the targeting and efficiencies that programmatic offers.

7. Depending on regulatory changes to incentives and penalties regarding EMR adoption, and based on a fairly saturated and penetrated market, the adoption rate of EMRs may slow down or even flat line. There will be a group of laggards who continue with paper charts until retirement. Some people are simply change-averse hold-outs. 2017 may expose these practices as not willing to budge.

8. The continued rise of consumerism in healthcare where customer service, Net Promoter scores, quality packaging and presentation, and ratings and reviews become the metrics on which brand manager KPIs should be based. 2017 is not likely to bring all of those changes to brand manager KPIs, however, the trend toward the higher expectations of consumerism will only continue to accelerate. Patient voices will be heard.

9. The rise of decentralized healthcare and the decline of hospitals. Large hospitals will continue to shut their doors in favor of decentralized, distributed, and local specialized care facilities. Health systems, and the underappreciated practitioners of front-line medicine, such as physicians, nurses, NPs and PAs, more than any other players in healthcare, may feel the most relief from changes to the ACA.

10. Healthcare may be one of the most interesting “Big Data” petri dishes society has to offer. If we can appropriately modify HIPAA—to empower and enable our most talented data scientists to really explore, understand, and find trends and insights in the data found within the healthcare market—we could see remarkable change and improvement to care, costs, and lives saved. I don’t predict this will happen in 2017, but we will begin the conversation.

  • RJ Lewis

    R.J. Lewis is President & CEO of eHealthcare Solutions. R.J. is also the chair of the American Medical Media Publisher task force on Ad Viewability. Follow him on Twitter @rlewis.

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