Healthcare initiatives for 2015 are something we’ve covered before, but those are just about what’s starting to take hold. In this article, we’re looking even further into the future to see what technologies and trends you as a solutions provider should be keeping an eye on as clues to what the future of healthcare holds.
Here are four areas of innovation and development in the industry that you will find useful as you and your clients adapt and adjust to industry changes.
Building information modeling
The line between IT and the physical construction of healthcare facilities is becoming increasingly blurred.
Building Information Modeling is an intelligent, model-based building process that allows healthcare facilities to be constructed and grow in smart ways that are truly connected to the needs of a healthcare community. It incorporates technology that ranges from computer modeling to the information and medical technologies that are used by clinicians and healthcare support staff on a daily basis.
Healthcare Design Magazine recently highlighted the benefits of BIM in healthcare design, citing things like time and money savings, improved implementation of complex projects, decreased construction time, virtualization of design and construction stages, and integration of a building’s computerized maintenance management system to plan and track equipment layout.
Next gen infrastructure and cloud
Dell has recently announced international efforts aimed at developing next generation cloud technologies in verticals that include healthcare.
The tech giant is collaborating with IIT Madras on an R&D program that, according to ItVoir, focuses on “Next Generation Infrastructure and Cloud” technologies. Dell is looking to leverage their Dell Networking Center as well as the talent pool in Chennai to push research around the cloud and tech infrastructure forward. The partnership will sponsor several different research projects and offer funds to scholars whose work aligns with Dell Research initiatives.
For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.
Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.
The faculty vote came too late to stop the cost increases from taking effect this month, and the anger on campus remains focused on questions that are agitating many workplaces: How should the burden of health costs be shared by employers and employees? If employees have to bear more of the cost, will they skimp on medically necessary care, curtail the use of less valuable services, or both?
“Harvard is a microcosm of what’s happening in health care in the country,” said David M. Cutler, a health economist at the university who was an adviser to President Obama’s 2008 campaign. But only up to a point: Professors at Harvard have until now generally avoided the higher expenses that other employers have been passing on to employees. That makes the outrage among the faculty remarkable, Mr. Cutler said, because “Harvard was and remains a very generous employer.”
In Harvard’s health care enrollment guide for 2015, the university said it “must respond to the national trend of rising health care costs, including some driven by health care reform,” in the form of the Affordable Care Act. The guide said that Harvard faced “added costs” because of provisions in the health care law that extend coverage for children up to age 26, offer free preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies and, starting in 2018, add a tax on high-cost insurance, known as the Cadillac tax.
Richard F. Thomas, a Harvard professor of classics and one of the world’s leading authorities on Virgil, called the changes “deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university.”
Mary D. Lewis, a professor who specializes in the history of modern France and has led opposition to the benefit changes, said they were tantamount to a pay cut. “Moreover,” she said, “this pay cut will be timed to come at precisely the moment when you are sick, stressed or facing the challenges of being a new parent.”
U.S. healthcare spending on track to hit $10,000 per person this year
There’s never a shortage of major healthcare policy events in any given calendar year ? and 2015 will be no exception. Here’s a short list of some that are pending and noteworthy ? with a few predictions.
First up isn’t a prediction as much as a major milestone that’s reflective of escalating healthcare costs. According to CMS our National Healthcare Expenditure (NHE) is projected to hit $3.207 trillion this year. The U.S. Population is currently hovering at around 320 million, so 2015 looks to be the first year healthcare spending will reach $10,000 per person. We may be “bending the cost growth curve,” but the per capita amount continues to grow.
The effect of this, of course, is largely unknown. Proponents of CDHP’s argue that it’s a much needed shift to foster more consumer accountability for healthcare utilization. Opponents argue that we lack the scientific evidence (certainly at this early stage) to know what the real effect is on health and outcomes ? and there’s a significant risk associated with healthcare that’s delayed or avoided because of cost. This will continue to be hotly debated well into 2015 ? and beyond.
There was a glimmer of hope in 2014 with what appeared to be a viable solution for the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), but that deteriorated quickly into yet another series of punts into 2015. Ultimately, there are only three options with the SGR.
Falling through the cracks of China’s healthcare system
China says 95 percent of its 1.34 billion people are covered by medical insurance. That should have included Zhao Guomei, whose struggle with a rare but treatable disease shows how the system is failing for millions of China’s workers.
Doctors in July diagnosed Ms. Zhao with aplastic anemia, a bone marrow condition that put her at high risk of infection. They estimated her treatment would cost at least 400,000 to 500,000 yuan, or roughly $65,000 to $82,000.
Despite years of work, the 26-year-old waitress couldn’t pay for it. Like many of China’s 269 million migrant workers, she bounced from city to city and job to job after leaving her home village to seek a better life. As a result, her employers – mostly small restaurants and noodle stands – haven’t contributed to her account under China’s medical-insurance system.
Ms. Zhao could have received coverage under a new rural medical-insurance plan, but only if she moved back to her home province of Guizhou, where job prospects for her fiancé were slim. And before she could even apply for reimbursement back home, she would have to pay the 56,000 yuan she owed to the hospital in Wuhan where she had been receiving blood transfusions and other treatment.
In early September, Ms. Zhao left the Wuhan hospital despite her deteriorating condition. “I just feel so tired. I feel like even walking a few steps takes all my strength away,” she said, in a barely audible voice.
“They didn’t kick us out,” said her fiancé, 28-year-old Zhou Guangsheng, who sells bamboo to make ends meet. “We just felt ashamed to stay there without paying them anything.”
Lexmark acquires medical imaging specialist Claron Technology
Lexmark International is acquiring Toronto-based Claron Technology Inc., a leading provider of medical image viewing, distribution, sharing and collaboration software technology, for $37 million.
“Digital content in all forms continues to exponentially grow, particularly in healthcare. Physicians, other providers and the health information exchanges must be equipped to utilize this content more quickly and collaborate more efficiently to better serve patients,” said Paul Rooke, Lexmark’s chairman and CEO. “The acquisition of Claron further differentiates Lexmark by providing solutions to help physicians and providers view images across devices and the enterprise, enabling better collaboration and patient care.”
The Claron acquisition is part of Lexmark’s stated strategy to allocate capital to grow its software and data solutions capabilities, while returning more than 50 percent of free cash flow to shareholders, on average, through quarterly dividends and share repurchases. The cash purchase price is funded with Lexmark’s non U.S.-based cash.
“Healthcare is a focus for us,” Rooke said. With the acquisition, Lexmark will be able to offer large medical operations such as hospitals a common platform for handling and sharing images generated by a variety of sources that now all require separate systems to use.
The market for “vendor neutral archiving” repository systems is growing 17 percent a year, Rooke said.
Biosensing technologies and wearables migrate from sports sector to healthcare market
Biosensing technologies and wearable devices used predominantly in sports are set to break into the healthcare industry as the US Baby Boom generation approach retirement age.
Medical professionals anticipating the rise in healthcare needs as the 78 million US people of the Baby Boom generation – a fourth of the total population – are getting old, believe biosensing technologies and wearable devices could help them deal with the boom. In 2016, the first of this generation will turn 70, and doctors believe the body starts to break down around that age. Those of the Baby Boomer generation are expected to live on average until they are 85; that creates the potential for around 78 million sick people at any one time for the next decade at least. Currently used as sporting devices that give the user information on heart rate, calories, and other fitness related data, biosensing devices could be useful for enabling doctors to keep track on their patients’ care without retaining them in hospital unnecessarily and using up beds and expensive resources.
In order for the biosensing technologies and wearable devices to make the transition into the healthcare industry, manufacturers need to improve the accuracy and precision of the data gathered, as well as be able to guarantee the privacy and security of the patients’ data. The devices also need to be compatible with existing healthcare systems if they are to seamlessly fit into healthcare and improve monitoring and treatment capacity.
There are two different camps of manufacturer ready to react to the anticipated rise in healthcare need by manufacturing biosensing technologies and wearable devices. Firstly, tech companies, such as Samsung, are looking to migrate their advancements into the medical field – Samsung launched its Samsung Digital Healthcare Initiative last autumn and has set up a $50 million investment fund in digital health. Secondly, established healthcare technology companies are looking to expand their range – A & D Medical have launched a new Apple Health app which monitors and connects data on the patients’ blood pressure and it has scales, an activity tracker and other biometric devices.