For those of us on the delivery side of healthcare, let's make a collective resolution for 2018. Let's make this the year we take the future into our own hands on behalf of the communities we serve.
Rather than allowing external forces to shape our destiny, we have an opportunity to lead the way and redefine healthcare across the country. Here are nine predictions for how health systems will steer the course of events in 2018.
1. Health providers will mobilize their communities to preserve Medicaid and Medicare.
As lawmakers weigh potential cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, providers will create a national dialogue about these safety-net programs, focused on who depends on them, the implications of potential reductions, and solutions to make care more cost-effective for taxpayers while also improving quality and access.
2. Digital health will be pursued as a new source of revenue to offset declining reimbursements.
Expect health systems to explore diversification of revenue streams through innovative digital offerings and to become more involved in developing new value-added health products and services for consumers and clinicians.
3. Partnerships with tech companies will be key to empowering consumers in health matters.
As tech giants and startups alike leverage cloud computing, artificial intelligence/machine learning, supply chain and consumer engagement platforms in healthcare, providers will partner with these companies to bring solutions to consumers, patients and clinical operations more quickly.
4. Precision medicine will play a larger role in wellness, prevention.
The secrets of the genome, proteome and microbiome—combined with clinical lab data and other personal health information—will take on greater prominence. This intersection will enable a more personalized approach to medicine, moving us to the verge of preventing, delaying and curing disease.
5. Providers will step up efforts to address the social determinants of health.
More health systems will expand beyond acute care to address the social determinants of health. Expect providers to forge more community partnerships in care management, supportive housing, education, nutrition, social services and increased access to care.
6. Providers will team up with diverse groups to address the mental health and opioid crisis.
With mental illness and substance abuse now at epidemic proportions, healthcare providers will collaborate even more with diverse community groups to address the problem. It will require the involvement of every sector, including schools, the criminal justice system, churches, businesses, social services and veterans' groups.
7. Providers will invest in workforce pipelines.
With soaring demand for well-prepared new employees, healthcare delivery systems will look to develop their own workforce pipelines through partnerships with universities, medical schools and other education programs.
8. More care will be delivered in more convenient places, from the ambulatory setting to the home.
This trend will continue everywhere, with providers serving consumers in retail settings and neighborhood wellness centers. Convenient at-home services like telehealth, chat or text will also become a go-to consumer resource, especially as reimbursement policies support these capabilities.
9. Healthcare will explore nontraditional partnerships to help establish greater stability.
Look for traditional but also nontraditional pairings that can bring care to more people and improve the efficiency of delivery. With reimbursement deteriorating and the threat of more people losing coverage, healthcare organizations will need to shore up their ability to care for their communities. Benefits include lower costs for medical supplies and pharmaceuticals to help stabilize what has been a skyrocketing expense.
With no let-up in sight in the massive pressures bearing down on providers, it's up to all of us to shape the future of healthcare in this country. Together, we'll drive toward better, cheaper and more convenient services for everyone.