Healthcare’s Biggest Stories: 2018

While the year may be coming to an end, the healthcare craze is only just beginning. With just two weeks left in 2018, and what might honestly be the biggest story of the year, a federal judge in Texas has ruled the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Little will change for now, but this is without a doubt an interesting way to kick off the new year.

It’s certainly a bombshell of a story, but we’d be remiss to not call out other news from the year that is shaping the industry as we know it. Below are what we believe to be the top trends and events from 2018 that will have the largest impact on our work in 2019.

Healthcare Business Is Booming
It was a record year for deal making in healthcare. Business Insider reports that between pharm companies, health insurers, and care providers, there has been more than $420 billion in transactions.

Megadeals, like CVS Health’s $69 billion acquisition of Aetna, have dominated the headlines, and Amazon is sinking its teeth into the healthcare industry further and further every day, first with its acquisition of PillPack this past summer and now with its patent for Alexa to pick up and act on a user’s cold or cough.

Investments in digital health have also taken a front seat. We had already surpassed record-breaking digital health investments from 2017 by October of this year. Many factors contribute to this gain, but a notable reason is consumer demand for increased access and flexibility with healthcare.

But Consumers Are Still Paying the Price

The high cost of prescription drugs isn’t a new story, but it’s one that has certainly picked up steam this past year. Not only have drug prices increased, but they have outpaced other aspects of healthcare spending, which many could argue is already out of control. And it’s not just specialty drugs that come with the heavy price tag—the cost for medications used to treat common and chronic conditions (diabetes, asthma, etc.) have skyrocketed.

With more light being shed on unfair pricing, the government is starting to act. In fact, in more than 40 states, pharma-related bills are pending or have recently been passed. Congress has also passed an anti-gag clause bill which allows pharmacists to inform patients on medication cost savings.

We also can’t forget Vox’s series on emergency room bills. Senior Correspondent Sarah Kliff spent 15 months dutifully uncovering the unpredictable and costly nature of ER billing. She read through 1,182 emergency room bills from patients of all ages, in all 50 states, from cities big and small. While there is already a general understanding of healthcare being costly, the learnings were so much more shocking than we originally thought. Some patients were charged astronomical amounts for things they could buy on their own at the drugstore (like pregnancy tests and eye drops), and some patients were charged for just sitting in the waiting room.

This eye-opening reporting has led to some good, though—since Vox started this series multiple bills have been introduced to prevent these surprise costs. One thing is for certain—consumers are starting to take note of where healthcare falls short and they are no longer afraid to demand change.

So Where are We Headed?
We can no longer deny the power consumers have over our industry. They are influencing everything we know and love (and maybe loathe) about healthcare, down to each and every penny spent and invested by venture capitalists. We know that if they are unhappy, they will shop around until they find a better and more affordable fit.

As the younger generations continue to grow and fill the masses, healthcare organizations will be wise to offer consumer-centric solutions that make accessing care as easy and guess-free as possible.

For our part, we’ve seen tremendous growth with our digital care coordination platform as we’ve added new customers and grown with our existing customers. The clear takeaway for us is that both providers and health plans are increasingly adopting consumer friendly technology to improve access and meet the growing consumer demand. If you’re interested in learning more about how our digital care coordination platform is transforming patient access, read about our work with one of the nation’s largest health systems.