I recently presented a lecture at the CompuGroup Medical (CGM) User Group Conference entitled Ten Major Trends Facing the Healthcare Industry in Ambulatory Care on a Five-year Horizon. You can view a PDF of my lecture here. I made reference to this lecture in a blog note about how the future of healthcare was inextricably bound to information technology (see: Future of Healthcare Changes Inextricably Bound to Information Technology). Here is a slightly modified list of the ten megatrends that I presented in Las Vegas:
- Big Medicine continues to dominate healthcare delivery.
- Healthcare payers demand cost reductions.
- The configuration. design, and purpose of hospitals is changing (e.g., bedless hospitals).
- Telemedicine is rapidly becoming the new normal.
- The majority of physicians are becoming health system employees.
- Sicker patients are gravitating to ambulatory care and telemedicine settings.
- Consumerism is driving the decentralization of healthcare.
- Wearable devices and home mini-labs are gaining broad acceptance.
- Precision medicine is maturing as a medical discipline.
- Health networks connect providers, patients, and consumers.
I would now like to extend some of my comments about the growth of telemedicine. The cost of healthcare as a percentage of the GDP continues to grow at an unsupportable rate. For me, the best way to deliver care to an increasing number of patients at a reasonable cost is with telemedicine. Such an approach will allow a rapid expansion of the scale of healthcare without rigid investments in bricks-and-mortar facilities. I also believe that sicker patients, as noted in the list above, will gravitate to ambulatory care settings as bedless hospitals are built with more sophisticated capacity to manage virtual care visits. This is trend is analogous to the trajectory of outpatient surgery over the last decade, offering increasingly complex procedures.
The replacement of in-person ambulatory visits with virtual ones will usher in a major transformation of healthcare. I suspect that some older physicians may not feel comfortable with this change. Most younger physicians will immediately relate to virtual care because they use technology such as FaceTime on a daily basis. I am seeing almost daily advertisements from large health systems about the availability of telemedicine visits as an option. Here's a quote from a recent article on this topic (see: Telemedicine Statistics Show Big Growth Potential):
Insurers have jumped on the bandwagon and have begun to partner with telemedicine providers for a number of their health plans. According to Workforce’s January article, “Insurers Connecting to Telemedicine” Aflac added teleservices to its group critical-illness plans last November. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association partnered with provider American Well in 2014 as did Anthem Inc. to offer telemedicine services to approximately 3.5 millions of its members. It’s expected that more health plans will rollout teleservices in pilot programs or targeted geographic areas in 2016.