Healthcare trends in the United States involve many polarizing issues. On the one side are the conservatives, who want to maintain the insurance-driven, for-profit model that has been the status quo for decades. On the other side are the progressives, who want to put people and their health before profits and shareholders. In any event, there are five trends weaving their threads through the fabric of the situation.
1. The Alt-Right Drive to Repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
When it was first proposed, the Affordable Care Act was a poor compromise that, as Forbes pointed out, was a gift to the profit-driven insurance industry. It was a conservative alternative to single-payer healthcare or a government-funded “public option.” Still, in 2017, the trend in healthcare is to repeal “Obamacare” and the protections it provides to many people who were uninsured before its enactment. The position of the “repeal crowd” is far to the right of those conservatives who worked with former President Obama to enact the legislation in the first place. So far, all efforts to repeal the law have failed.
2. The Shift Toward Value-Based Care
In the past, hospitals would be paid by health maintenance organizations and other similar entities by the number of patients they saw, the number of tests they performed, and other fee-based mechanisms. Since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, which changed the way health providers would be paid, the healthcare trend has been toward value-based care. This method is patient-driven, and the providers are paid based on favorable patient outcomes. Coupled with one-year renewal schedules for doctors’ contracts, this value-based approach stresses quality over quantity.
3. Technology, Technology, Technology
There is an old saying that sufficiently advanced technology would seem like magic to previous generations. Four decades ago, who would have though that a doctor could read X-Rays on his or her phone, write prescriptions using a computer so that patients who cannot get to the office can still get their medications, or even teleconference with a specialist who happens to be 12,000 miles away? There are all manner of technological healthcare breakthroughs, including those not even involved in direct care, such as advanced billing algorithms, test result collating, and other procedural boons that simplify the process in the name of value.
4. The Rise of Collaboration
More and more doctors are working in hospitals these days instead of hanging out their own shingles. By centralizing healthcare and focusing on the strengths and specialties of doctors and nurses, the industry strives to achieve the higher value promised by its philosophical shift. Each hub, too, consults with other hubs instead of competing with them. In the world of 2017 and beyond, the patient is what is important and not the bottom line.
5. The Inexorable Move Toward Single-Payer
Much has been made of the fact that the Unites States is the only country in the developed world without a national healthcare system of some kind. When one examines all of the changes in the healthcare field, such as the shift to value instead of “production,” the shift to collaboration instead of competition, and others, it’s easy to see that single-payer healthcare is on the horizon. It might be a “Medicare for All” idea or something different. The fact remains that the United States is looking, however modestly at first, at joining the rest of the world in growing up when it comes to healthcare.
As with most anything else in the 21st century, healthcare trends tend to take place in a fast-moving environment. Don’t blink, or you might miss something!