The healthcare industry can look forward to another busy year in 2019, with digital trends again leading the way, according to a report from the PwC Health Research Institute.
The most prominent trend is set to be digital and connected care. After FDA approval of app- and device-based therapies in 2018, such as Natural Cycles’ birth control app and Pear Therapeutics’ substance abuse app Reset, PwC researchers expect more digital care to come to the market next year.
New technology is coupled with an increasing desire by American patients to use digital care and connected devices to monitor their health. More than half of American consumers are open to trying FDA-approved digital apps or online tools to treat their medical conditions, according to a PwC Health Research Institute consumer survey in September.
To keep up with the influx of technology, healthcare companies should keep their focus on health outcomes, evaluate their workflows to accomodate more data from devices and apps, and consider partnerships to test new tech, the report said.
Health companies will also need to “upskill” their employees in 2019. Companies will need to train, or retrain, employees all the way up to the c-suite to work with new technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics.
The report also predicted that 2019 will be the year the industry creates the “Southwest Airlines of healthcare.” As costs continue to rise for the patient and consumers look for better customer service, healthcare companies are looking to build flexible, low-cost options into their business.
That means the traditional programs to help patients afford medicine will need to change. Instead of just offering drug discounts, PwC expects these programs to expand in 2019 to helping patients with transportation, housing, nutrition, and more.
For other healthcare companies, like providers and pharmacies, later hours and more transparent pricing are on the horizon next year, according to the report.
The role of private equity firms in the healthcare industry is also expected to grow in 2019, whether that’s companies selling units to private equity or partnering with the firms to jointly acquire businesses. PwC recommends healthcare companies consider selling their non-core business units to private equity to double down on their core business and to partner with private equity to help advance new tech and practices in the industry.
The industry can expect two major policy issues to affect business: tax reform and the Affordable Care Act. Congress took action on both this year, but the changes will largely go into effect in 2019. A federal judge in Texas struck down the law last week, but it is again expected to go in front of the Supreme Court.
While Republicans were not able to fully repeal the ACA, healthcare companies can expect more attempted changes to the law. Healthcare companies should look out for ACA additions related to drug prices and more states expanding the insurance markets, according to the report. The tax reform bill will give healthcare companies more money to play with, which PwC recommends reinvesting into the business.