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3 Healthcare Trends to Watch in 2017

By Thomas Gole, DO, FAAFP19 Apr 2017

healthcare trendsAs 2017 takes shape, the healthcare industry is looking at a massive upheaval: The end of, or changes to, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), new technology advances, likely new healthcare legislation and changes in patient care.

To give you a clearer picture of what the year could bring, we identified three healthcare trends to watch.

Trend No. 1: Payment Model Changes

Along with any changes to the ACA, leaders and physicians will be keeping up on possible continued expansion of current alternative payment models. Susan DeVore at HealthAffairs notes that Republicans have two options: expand the current payment models and make improvements or give everything to the private sector to figure out.

Instead of turning everything over to the private sector, DeVore theorizes the current model will be expanded and improved upon.

“This is the only antidote to perpetual cuts to fee-for-service (which we can most definitely expect in any repeal-and-replace plan), as well as rising costs for medical devices and drugs,” DeVore wrote. “We will see substantive policy changes, such as added use of legal waivers, changes to the measures and benchmarks, fixes to the risk adjustment methodology, and potentially changes to the savings shared back with providers. But no matter how it’s organized, the writing is on the wall—we are long past the days of rewards based on consumption. In 2017, value becomes the new economy and measurement its currency.”

Trend No. 2: Drones?

You saw them at the Super Bowl halftime show, they may even deliver the packages you order online someday, but do drones have a place in health care? According to Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) they could. The firm notes that these pilot-free devices could be used to deliver health care goods to consumers and during disaster response.

Qualcomm has launched a $10 million prize to any team that creates a Tricorder device that can accurately diagnose 13 health conditions and recognize five vital signs.

‘“There is no reason to go to the hospital and spend the first 15 minutes answering questions and getting weighed,” said Grant Campany, director of the content. “Tricorder technology can already do these things—these devices can be engineered in the near future to integrate existing health technologies in the home and combine various data points to generate actionable information for patients and physicians alike. The physician sees the screen and gets to the heart of the matter, figuring out what to do to make you healthier,”’ notes PwC.

In addition to drones, Tricorders and virtual reality, you should keep an eye on technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain, Internet of Things, robots and 3D printing, according to PwC.

Trend No. 3: Focus on Nutrition

As things continue to trend toward value-based care, many health organizations will begin to focus on nutrition, according to PwC. With nearly 40 percent of Americans obese and 24 percent of Americans with at least one diet-related health issue, nutrition is being viewed as a way to prevent costly medical issues and improve the health of populations these organizations serve.

When asked if they’d take advantage of free weight-management or diet-related advice from a doctor, 79 percent of consumers said they would. Over half (59 percent) said they would accept the same advice from a pharmacy, while 41 percent said they would from a gym and 38 percent would from an employer.

Trends like advances in medical technology could streamline health care for patients and healthcare workers, and changes in how we handle nutrition could improve the health of patients. What trends do you think will make a mark in 2017?

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