Given the election year, healthcare will be top-of-mind for American consumers in 2020. Patients are demanding more consumer-centric healthcare solutions and are increasingly looking to tap non-traditional avenues like tech and brick-and-mortar retail to deliver on care needs. The idea of giving more power to the consumer in managing their care is now an irreversible trend, as companies are recognizing both the patient demand and their bottom-line benefit in making this a reality.
The impact of “newer players” in healthcare is gaining critical mass and creating a force for positive change for the industry, including big tech, digital health & therapeutic companies, consumer health & retail companies, and tech-enabled integrated payer and providers. These companies working alongside traditional players, added with an evolving regulatory framework, are irreversibly starting to change healthcare for the better – for patients and clinicians. Although it will take a while for all of us to feel the positive impact of this shift, there are early positive signs of what’s to come.
Tech will be central to the patient’s healthcare journey: Big tech such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Verily are continuing to invest heavily in providing cloud technology platforms and components for the entire healthcare ecosystem to leverage – a net positive as these platforms gain further adoption. Patients will continue to start their healthcare journeys on their mobile phones, utilizing not only basic communication and search functions, but also increasingly engaging with tools such as curated medical search results surfaced by Google and Bing, and interactive consumer tools such as Facebook’s new Preventative Health tool.
Retail giants will step up the selling – and showcasing – of healthcare: Traditional consumer health retailers like CVS Health and Walmart are going to be a dominant way in which all patients get healthcare in the future as they continue investing heavily in providing a consumer-like experience in their “retail clinics”. Many of us have started to experience this (with flu-shots etc.), but the retail clinic experience is clearly moving from the back of the store to the front. This will drive more price transparency, convenience, and eventual 24/7 access to comprehensive primary care (including dental and vision) in our neighborhoods. The CVS HealthHUB model – which includes expanded MinuteClinics and increased pharmacist advisement – will be one to particularly watch, as the brand has committed to opening 1,500 hubs by the end of 2021.
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Patients will increasingly look to tap apps for care: Telehealth and digital health apps are starting to gain real momentum. Many companies are providing solutions that are seeing traction with patients in specific use-cases and verticals. Some examples include Teladoc’s tele-visits for basic primary care, 98point6’s text-based care model, Talkspace’s app for online counseling, Reflexion Health’s remote physical therapy platform, and Constant Therapy’s on-demand speech and cognitive therapy offering. We’re seeing a demand for these services across multiple patient categories, from young to old in need of acute and chronic care. In a recent consumer poll, we found that nearly 90 percent of physical and speech-language therapy patients were interested in using apps as part of their recovery, further evidence that digital care will see increased growth as it moves away from being viewed as alternative treatment into a more mainstream solution.
The evolution of regulation will create opportunities for AI: The regulatory framework continues to evolve in the right direction to increasingly take advantage of AI in healthcare, which will be very positive for the industry. The FDA has recently updated several guides and proposed framework documents that help to clarify their approaches, such as the proposed framework for modifications to AI-based SaMD, updates to the General wellness policy for low-risk devices, and the draft guidance regarding Clinical Decision support software. Also, as the FDA’s work with industry on the Software Pre-Cert Pilot program continues to make progress, we can expect guidance by the end of 2020, which will be very helpful for digital health companies in building and continuously managing changes to their products. With the appropriate evolution of the regulatory “guard-rails”, we can expect AI to play an ever-increasing role in improving healthcare.