I’ve been talking a lot about the future lately. I think I’ll keep the crystal ball rolling just a bit longer. In an election year where healthcare has pulled ahead of the economy as the primary concern of voters, I think it’s safe to say that we can expect some changes in the next decade to the way we do business in this arena. A lot will depend on who’s in charge after November is over, but a lot won’t. As another week draws to a close, I’d like to share a few politically agnostic predictions for the future of healthcare in the U.S.
1.) Women will achieve parity with men as a percentage of doctors and surgeons. They will be a young and diverse group with more tech exposure than any generation before them, and they’ll bring with them talents and perspectives that will lead to better outcomes for their patients and more innovation in their field. Women already make up about forty percent of our physicians. By 2030, I think they’ll be a lot closer to half.
2.) Security and compliance will put us on the path to lowering costs. Maybe it will be the government under a single-payer system. Maybe it will be a group of America’s largest insurers. Whoever it is, someone is going to force the industry to get a whole lot more serious about security and compliance so that we can stop setting records for the size and severity of our data breaches. This may be expensive at first as systems are created and built out, but once they’re in place we will see costs decline with the number of false insurance claims.
3.) Consumerism will cause healthcare to look a whole lot more like a retail experience. It’s already happening. In fact, major retailers like Wal Mart, Costco, and Amazon are already investing heavily to prepare for the new wave of healthcare delivery models like telemedicine, direct-to-consumer testing, e-pharmaceuticals, and retail care. With more care options than ever before and fewer barriers to accessibility, patients will be shopping around a lot more for their healthcare solutions and products.
4.) Telehealth will explode. China is already investing heavily in this as a solution, with plans to cover over 70% of their public hospitals through telemedicine solutions by 2022. Once we figure out a few things like security, compliance, and connectivity, I predict that we’ll see large scale adoption here as well. This could go a long way toward providing care access to the elderly, the immobile, and people living in rural areas when we figure out how to make it work reliably.
5.) Face-to-face interactions between patients and providers will become more important than ever. I’ve already written about the loneliness epidemic. If you’re a provider, then a meaningful number of the people who come to you seeking treatment or services are lonely. What’s worse, they’re typically going through a very vulnerable time. When we’re sick or injured, we’re scared and depressed. We need to talk to someone about what’s happening to us, and who better than the person providing our treatment. Technology will play a big role in healthcare, and telemedicine will expand, but a provider who knows how to provide their patients with an empathetic ear and is willing to treat them where they are will be well positioned to be enormously successful in the next decade.