As the health sector moves beyond the Affordable Care Act and into more consumer-focused care, there are several important factors transforming the landscape of the healthcare industry. With no immunity to the changes brought in with the New Year, here are the top healthcare trends to dominate the 2015 agenda.

Economics

After a recent slowdown, many experts believe that healthcare costs will significantly outpace inflation. Essentially this means a larger portion of the U.S. gross domestic product will go to healthcare, which could hurt the economy. Healthcare reform has led to a decrease in the number of uninsured individuals, but the high deductibles that accompany many plans drive down volume as patients attempt to save money by avoiding health services.

Telehealth

Telemedicine has emerged as a cost-effective alternative to the traditional, face-to-face way of providing medical care. This includes the use of telecommunication and information technology to provide clinical healthcare at a distance. Remote healthcare services and technology are quickly becoming commonplace for healthcare organizations across the globe. Ironically the U.S. has been among the slowest to adopt these practices and recognize the widespread benefits, but the propagation of wearable technology and providers seeing their patients via video chat will further advance telehealth practices.

Healthcare IT Interoperability

As long as data is kept captive behind proprietary walls, its true potential can’t be unlocked. This helps to explain why widespread dissatisfaction exists among providers. Without interoperability, patient records are often incomplete and providers must verify treatment before they can provide service or continue care. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, twenty percent of preventable medical errors are caused by a lack of access to health information. Healthcare’s interoperability revolution of 2015 will likely bring renewed pressure of proprietary systems to mend the disconnect between IT systems.

Bundling Healthcare Payments

Along with a rapid expansion in bundled payments, all eyes will be on accountable care organizations (ACOs) as the leading care model transforms. Bundled payments compile all the services patients receive during an episode of care, including conditions like heart surgery and knee replacements that require pre and post-hospital care, under a single target fee. Often referred to as the middle ground between fee-for-service reimbursement and capitation, bundled payments are a strategy for reducing healthcare costs.

Growth of Health Exchanges

The number of enrollees that select their health insurance plan through private healthcare exchanges is estimated to grow by 300 percent growth in 2015. Although healthcare.gov and the clunky debut of the public insurance exchange got all the attention in 2014, the real action is located in the private exchanges. These private exchanges will be strong healthcare growth markets during 2015 and for years to come.

The Rise of mHealth

Consumers will assume more control of their personal care. This includes the use of a wide range of consumer-centered mHealth technologies. Expert employers will begin incentivizing employees to implement mHealth choices in order to gauge the state of their health and become more actively engaged in staying healthy. For instance, health-oriented wearables will become common aspects of life and wellness.

Strategic M&A Consolidations

While mergers and acquisitions aren’t the only way to survive, it can be challenging for small-to-medium sized independent health systems and hospitals to continue to go it alone. Some organizations will be very successful in consolidating high-cost services. Strategic regional players will find increased momentum to consolidate in 2015.

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