Top Healthcare Issues for 2018
In 2018, there is no shortage of issues impacting those in the healthcare industry. Healthcare industry organizations are navigating changes from Washington regarding tax reform and regulatory changes to the Affordable Care Act. New technologies, industry mergers, and rising costs all contribute to the stress being experienced throughout the industry. While any listing of issues impacting the healthcare industry could easily turn into a novel-length dissertation, for brevity sake we will choose five topics that will be newsworthy in 2018 and beyond.
- The healthcare industry is all-in on tackling the opioid epidemic. You may be surprised to learn that the leading cause of death for adults under 50 years of age in the U.S. is opioid abuse. Solving this complex crisis will take a collaborative effort from policymakers, healthcare organizations, and consumer advocates. In 2018, the healthcare industry will continue to improve treatments for those suffering from chronic pain and provide more support for the recognition and treatment of those struggling with addiction. Healthcare organizations will be expanding partnerships with the community and first responders to implement addiction and overdose prevention programs. And just as importantly, providers are implementing systems and operational practices to restrict the overwhelming volume of opioids being prescribed.
- The continuation of health care reform. While Congress failed to fully repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in 2017, a number of changes were enacted that impacted the industry. The fragmented dismantling of ACA legislation is expected to continue throughout 2018, keeping health industry leaders in a reactionary state while attempting to project how federal and state policy will ultimately impact them. Much of the discussion in Washington today revolves around returning healthcare funding and delivery decisions to the state level. Unfortunately, 2018 is shaping up to be another year of uncertainty for industry decision makers.
- Investing in the patient experience. In a continuation of recent trends, healthcare organizations are investing in improving the patient experience in a way that changes behaviors and improves outcomes. The patient experience is becoming more of a priority as value-based payment models are implemented with the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act. Initially, the most noticeable implications of the patient experience effort are the proliferation of slick patient portals and online services. Now the focus for provider executives is striking a better balance between patient experience and employee satisfaction through employee engagement efforts.
- Artificial Intelligence is gaining traction in healthcare. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already having an impact on logistics, marketing plans, financial services, and other industry sectors. For healthcare organizations, AI technology is slowly being introduced but with the potential to have a major impact in the future. Currently, AI is helping to automate many back-office operations like financial and tax-related decisions, supply chain functions, and regulatory compliance. At the next level, AI will be used to supplement the healthcare workforce, helping staff to practice at the maximum capabilities of their skills. AI tools will be available to help with repetitive or low-skill tasks while the staff is focusing on more important tasks. The whole point of utilizing AI is to allow healthcare professionals to work smarter, not harder.
- Mergers and disruptors transform the healthcare landscape. News of the collaboration agreement between Amazon, Berkshire-Hathaway, and J.P. Morgan sent shockwaves throughout the healthcare industry, but it is still far too early to understand what ramifications are on the horizon. Another pending merger making news is CVS Health and Aetna. Their justification for the merger is focusing on reining in health care costs through an expansion of CVS’ walk-in clinics as opposed to more expensive ER visits. The CVS-Aetna deal has prompted other acquisition talk including grocery-giant Albertsons considering a move to buy the Rite Aid drugstore chain. Suffice to say, 2018 will be a year of discovery as these mergers continue to shape the industry.
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