With 2017 almost in the rear-view mirror, it is time to look forward to 2018 and how healthcare will evolve in this year. The last year has been an eventful one for healthcare, from the uproar in healthcare regulations to potential mega-mergers. Needless to say, it’s a time of transition, and healthcare is in a very fluid state- evolving and expanding. There are certainly going to be new ways to keep healthcare providers and health IT pros stay engaged and excited, and here are our top 10 picks:

  1. The future of the GOP Healthcare billThe Republican healthcare reform bill gained immense traction this year. In their third attempt at putting a healthcare bill forward, the senators and the White House officials have been working round the clock to gather up votes, but somehow, the reservations persist. The lawmakers have insisted that Americans would not lose their vital insurance protections under their bill, including the guarantee that the plan would protect those with preexisting conditions. However, as it so happens, even these plans have been put to rest. Perhaps sometime in 2018, the GOP may pass a budget setting up reconciliation for tax reform, and then pass tax reform. Then, they would pass a budget setting up reconciliation for Obamacare repeal, and then pass that- it all remains to be seen.
  2. The ongoing shift to value from volumeDespite speculations, healthcare providers, as well as CMS have pushed for more value-based care and payments tied to quality, but it’s been going slow. Although providers have been slightly resistant to take on risk, they do recognize the potential to contain costs and improve quality of care over value-based contracts. And perhaps as data assumes a central role in healthcare, the increasing availability of data and smarter integration of disconnected data systems will make the transition easier and scalable. Notably, with a $3.3 trillion healthcare expenditure this year, there has been slow down the cost growth. 2018 is expected to be much more impactful as it builds on the strong foundation.
  3. Big data and analytics translating data into real health outcomesBig data and analytics have always brought significant advancements in making healthcare technology-driven. With the help of big data and smart analytics, we are at a point in healthcare we can make a near-certain prediction about possible complications a patient can face, their possible readmission, and the outcomes of a care plan devised for them. Not only it could translate to better health outcomes for the patients, it could also make a difference in improving reimbursements and regulatory compliance.
  4. Blockchain-based systemsBlockchain could arguably be one of the most disruptive technologies in healthcare. It is already being considered as a solution to healthcare’s longstanding challenge of interoperability and data exchange. Bringing blockchain-based systems will definitely require some changes from the ground up, but 2018 will have a glimpse of by innovation centered around blockchain and how it can enhance healthcare data exchange and ensure security. 
  5. AI and IoT taking on a central role2018 can witness a good amount of investment from healthcare leaders in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things. There is going to be a considerable advancement in technology, making the use of technology crucial in healthcare and assist an already unbalanced workforce. AI and IoT will not only prove instrumental in enhancing accuracy in clinical insights, and security, but could also be fruitful in reducing manual redundancy and ensuring fewer errors as we transition to a world of quality in care.
  6. Digital health interventions and virtual care to improve access and treatmentIn December 2016, many were suggesting that wearables were dead. Today, wearables are becoming one of the most sought-after innovation when it comes to digital health. And, the market is quickly diversifying as clinical wearables gain importance and as several renowned organizations integrate with each other. Not only wearables- there are several apps and biosensors that can assist providers with remotely tracking patient health, engage patients, interact with them, and streamline care operations. As technology becomes central to healthcare, 2018 will be the year when these apps and wearables boost the patient-physician interaction. 
  7. The increasing importance of securityWe deal with a tremendous amount of confidential and critical information in healthcare. It’s not just patient health information- it goes from credit card information to digital footprints. As the plethora of devices and systems storing information grows in size, a focus on ensuring becomes extremely vital as a breach could range from something as slight as information being stolen to as dangerous as a person being physically harmed. 2018 may be high time we took a good, hard look at the security of our infrastructure.
  8. Payer-provider collaborationsOver the years, healthcare insurers have been stepping into primary care delivery model, encouraging prevention and wellness. At the same time, we have also witnessed the trend of hospitals and healthcare systems getting into the insurance part to take control of the complete patient care process. 2017 saw a lot of merger activity and 2018 will continue to see this synergy focused on value-based care, direct primary care, chronic care management, and patient engagement.
  9. Possibly stable healthcare costsAnalysts predict that the healthcare industry will observe a growth of 6.5% in 2018, only half a percentage point higher than in 2017. And, after the changes like copays and network sizes are made to benefit plan design, this growth rate could be as low as 5.5%. Healthcare has long waited for an inflection point, where the spending will take off. But as it so happens, healthcare seems to be settling into a ‘new normal,’ where the fluctuations are more attuned and the growth rate remains in a single digit, with providers seeking strategies that would improve care management, optimize resource utilization and bring the costs down.
  10. The future of ACAThere have been several debates and speculations regarding the future of the Affordable Care Act. With a new GOP healthcare bill on the cards, some things will stay the same, but with differences- people can still sign up on healthcare.gov, but the sign-up period would be shorter. They can still get subsidies to help lower their premiums or reduce their deductibles and copays, but some plans will be much more expensive. The future of ACA is still cloudy, and the attempts to repeal and replace ACA have been laid to rest, for now, but one thing is certain- a lot fewer people will enroll for ACA in 2018, fearing a repeal.

This is definitely an amazing time in the digital health world. There may be complexities and uncertainty, but for any healthcare system deeply passionate about realizing data-driven outcomes, looking for technology that can drive their core processes and help them win with value-based care- 2018 will be the year!

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Abhinav Shashank is the CEO and Co-Founder at Innovaccer , one of the fastest growing big data and analytics company based out of silicon valley. Innovaccer recently raised $15.6 million Series A led by Westbridge Capital Partners.

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