- Consolidation is the most important healthcare industry trend executives are thinking about, a survey of more than 1,000 healthcare leaders produced by analytics company Definitive Healthcare found. Consolidation pulled the most votes at 25.8%. Consumerism rang in second with 14.4% of votes.
- Telehealth followed suit at 13.8%, with artificial intelligence (11.2%) and staffing shortages (11.1%) trailing. Cybersecurity and EHR optimization received the same share of votes with 9.5%.
- Wearables are the trend healthcare professionals care about least, receiving only 61 votes (5.3%) despite having the most market potential. Definitive Healthcare notes that market valuation for health wearables is projected to reach $12.1 billion by 2021, which the firm says is almost double where it is today.
Consolidation may be top of mind for industry pros this year, but for hospitals the first quarter showed that M&A activity is slowing — now at its lowest point in nearly a decade. Big health systems like CHS, Lifepoint and Tenet are divesting more hospitals these days than acquiring them, choosing instead to focus on the assets they have in the most profitable markets. The goal is no longer to save struggling hospitals. Instead, M&A deals that do happen tend to involve health systems looking to expand into new markets.
Digital deals, however, have still been breaking records. Digital health investment hit nearly $9.5 billion across almost 700 deals globally in 2018, according to Mercom Capital Group, though interest may be waning.
Patient and payer demands have helped fuel the push to paying for value over volume and increased transparency. But despite more tools to help Americans to shop for healthcare plans, many either don't want to or don't know how to do it.
A 2017 UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey found only 9% of Americans surveyed showed an understanding of four basic health insurance terms: health plan premium, health plan deductible, out-of-pocket maximum and co-insurance.
A recent study from Chicago-based Prophet found that consumerism is lacking among providers, payers and pharmaceutical companies alike.
There's plenty of activity happening in the mid-range trends included in the Definitive Healthcare study, though.
Telehealth, for example, has been a major focus at CMS, which has been experimenting with allowing MA plans to include more options as supplementary benefits. And tech behemoths like Amazon and Google are partnering with providers to bring new artificial intelligence capabilities into clinics, hoping to alleviate some of the administrative burden that's leading to physician burnout.
As for wearables, though they collect plenty of data, physicians don't necessarily know how to interpret the information, or how much time they should spend attempting to do so.