PwC top 6 trends: 'Extreme makeover' for healthcare

By Bernie Monegain
08:28 AM

Booming business for healthcare IT leads PwC's list of top six healthcare trends for 2011. PwC's Health Research Institute also predicts payers and providers will undergo a strategy makeover as they react to new rules and payment models, continuing cost pressures and new customer demands.

In its Top Health Industry Issues of 2011, based on a nationwide survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, PwC found that consumers don't fully understand or buy-in to all the changes.

PwC's top issues for health industry organizations in 2011:

  1. Record spending on health information technology in 2011 is likely to increase demand for skilled healthcare IT professionals, an expanded role for chief information officers and increased merger and acquisition activity among organizations looking to share the cost and benefits of HIT integration.
  2. Significant changes in benefit plan design, plan pricing and the health plan landscape can be expected as insurers adapt to new medical loss ratio. In spite of the ruling this month on the constitutionality of the individual mandate, states will have to continue moving forward on developing health insurance exchanges.
  3. New risks and opportunities may emerge as payment models shift from fee-for-service to new models that focus on performance, health outcomes and shared cost savings in accountable care organizations.
  4. Health organizations may feel the trickle-down effect of decreased utilization by price sensitive consumers.
  5. A further uptick in merger and acquisition activity is one way health organizations may share administrative burdens and IT investments, gain market share and fill strategic gaps.
  6. Pharmaceutical companies see an opportunity to increase their visibility with consumers, influence health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs while increasing revenue using digital strategies and technology. The use of mobile health and wireless technologies by all health organizations is expected to continue to surge.

As part of its research for the Top Health Industry Issues of 2011, PwC surveyed consumers about their point of view on reform-related issues. Highlights of this research include:

  • The American workforce considers health insurance coverage an important factor in their choice of an employer, but most don't know the value of the benefit. Nearly three-fourths of consumers would trade employer-sponsored health insurance for higher pay, and more than half (56 percent) would opt to buy insurance from a health insurance exchange if they could get better coverage.
  • Less than half of consumers surveyed know what a health insurance exchange is.
  • Only half of consumers said they would stay within an accountable care-type group for all of their care, a risk to health organizations assuming greater accountability for health outcomes.
  • Currently, 86 percent of consumers do not access their medical records electronically, despite vast investments in EHRs and high hopes that consumers will use EHRs to participate in shared medical decision-making.
  • Forty-four percent of consumers think mergers and acquisitions among providers will lead to increased costs, and 36 percent think it will lead to longer wait times.

"Health organizations are engaged in a lot of activity, but the success of their efforts ultimately depends on the engagement of consumers – who are at the center of many of the policy goals for health reform," added Garrett.

For a deeper look at the PwC top healthcare issues for 2011 click on next page.