By Neil Patel, President, Healthbox; Executive Vice President, HIMSS
As 2019 draws to a close, health leaders throughout the industry are preparing for what promises to be another year of transformative change. In 2019, we witnessed inventive new partnerships and mergers, robust policy debates and exciting digital health innovations. We can expect to see more of these trends in 2020, as well as new dynamics due to recent entrants to the market and a volatile political environment—and the stakes will continue to climb.

As care delivery and reimbursement models continue to change, and as imaginative new digital health offerings continue to come to market, there will be clear winners and losers—those nimble enough to adapt and evolve, and those who find themselves disrupted.

The good news is that we can anticipate some of these changes and their impact on the industry. Here are five key predictions for healthcare in 2020:

• Self-funded employers will play a larger, more creative role in risk and care management.
Many organizations are finding that the costs associated with a traditional PPO approach have become untenable. To combat rising premiums as well as gain more control over benefits and employee incentives, more employers will come together to directly contract with health systems—forcing payers to re-evaluate their value proposition.

• Power will shift back to primary care physicians.
For years, the industry was heavily invested in growing inpatient volume through hospital expansions and consolidation. However, as value-based care models expand and drive care back to the communities, we’re going to see power shift back to physicians (specifically PCPs and those who manage health upstream). Private equity will acquire (or fund) physicians to leave their hospital employers.

• The 2020 U.S. election will lead to temporary public policy paralysis.
With healthcare a central issue in the election, the party that wins is going to have a tremendous impact on health information and technology in the years ahead. The good news is that support for health information and technology innovation crosses party lines. That said, policies vary widely, and the ultimate implementation of said policies will generate uncertainty among payers and providers—so we may see major initiatives slow down as the election nears.

• Tech and retail giants will be the ones to watch.
Amazon will focus on expanding and perfecting Amazon Care as part of its broader ambitions to eventually enter direct care delivery. Google will announce commercial solutions that build on the work it is doing with Mayo Clinic and Ascension Health, including a potential EMR. Microsoft will add several new partnerships with major payers and providers, similar to those already announced (e.g., Humana, Providence St. Joseph Health, etc.). And Wal-Mart will expand its healthcare offering to become one of the largest providers of rural healthcare in the U.S.

• Value-based care will accelerate the merging of the social care and medical care systems.
Now that health systems and payers have more of a stake in the health outcomes of their communities, they’re leveraging information and technology to develop targeted social interventions that can help address critical social determinants of health. Much like Aetna and CVS Health’s new social care network, we can expect to see more innovative partnerships with providers and community organizations, enabled by technology.

One thing is clear: increased competition and rapidly evolving care delivery models will cause everyone to raise their healthcare game in 2020. Incumbents who can adapt their business models and their workforces to meet the market’s competition and demands of the consumer will survive. Technology companies that collaborate with health systems and payers—thus co-developing solutions with the patient and clinician in mind—will be the most successful.

All of this innovation is ultimately in service of the patient, who will be the biggest winner of all. For everyone else, regardless of their role in the ecosystem, 2020 will be a bumpy ride.

What’s Next for Health: Five Predictions for 2020


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