The Big Stuff.
Let’s level-set on the biggest current healthcare trends.
This week, I took some time to sift through the current, major stories and healthcare trends happening right now:
Global healthcare trends:
- Coronavirus (duh)
Broad healthcare trends:
- Consolidation is happening industry-wide — to name a few sectors: physician practices, imaging centers, and home health.
- Consumer-centric healthcare is rapidly expanding, including direct to consumer services (hand in hand with “concierge medicine“), wearable tech, and telemedicine.
- More focus on social determinants of health.
- Rapid increase in private equity investments, Price transparency (learn more), data privacy (learn more), and vertical integration (learn more).
Policy healthcare trends:
- Election 2020 (learn more), rising drug costs (learn more), surprise billing (learn more), and the ACA back in court (learn more).
- Medicaid expansion, or Medicaid block grants? Time (and the 2020 election) will tell.
Digital health & innovation trends:
- Interoperability (more on that below) will create the need for stronger cybersecurity.
- Entrance of artificial intelligence in drug discovery/development (learn more), diagnostic fields (learn more), and other clinical settings (learn more).
- Continued growth of robotic assisted surgery (learn more). Big Tech is looking to disrupt healthcare.
- Rural hospitals are closing at record rates (learn more).
- Staffing shortages will affect providers’ future financial performance and viability.
Post-Acute Care trends:
- The new home health & hospice payment model, PDGM, may cause mass home health closures and drastic consolidation.
- Encompass Healthcare is building inpatient rehabilitation facilities like crazy.
- Skilled nursing facilities are struggling.
Physician Practice trends:
- Physicians are all getting employed by health systems, private equity firms, or insurance companies like UnitedHealth. As a result, independent docs are getting harder to come by.
Health Insurance trends:
- Healthcare spending growth, looming Baby Boomer population (65+) resulting in massive Medicare Advantage growth.
I dare you to find any healthcare trends I missed. Holler at me.
Other healthcare stories from the week…
The biggest global M&A deal so far this year was just announced. And it’s (partially) in healthcare.
Aon is acquiring Willis Towers Watson for a smooth $30 billion. Both of these companies are involved in risk and insurance brokerage, which involves some healthcare plans.
- It’s the largest deal announced so far in 2020, and the announcement comes on one of the most volatile days in the stock market.
Online pharmacy Ro wants to disrupt the generic drug market.
Ro, a new online pharmacy, is piloting a new service that would offer users of the platform $5 per prescription for generic medications.
- Details: $5 per prescription, per month. 500 generic drugs included. Delivery included.
Ro…sounds familiar: You might recall that Ro is formerly the startup called Roman, which discreetly sold male ED and hair loss medication directly to men.
- It’s a power play: Ro probably won’t make any money off this program without some SERIOUS customer acquisition. The pharmacy is rolling the service out to a small subset of patients first.
In a years-long project, a secret division within Amazon called Grand Challenge is reportedly working on a cure for the common cold. It’s called…Project Gesundheit. Really.
- In other Amazon news: They just rolled out a new Alexa feature that lets people ask about drug side effects.
~100,000 cases worldwide. Here’s an interactive map from nonprofit HealthMap. Conferences like HIMSS and SXSW are getting canceled. Airlines are cutting flights. South Korea is a coronavirus testing machine. The U.S. funded an $8 billion emergency package, part of which lifts Medicare’s restrictions on telehealth. On that note, Teladoc’s stock is surging on the prospects of virtual care. Biotech firms are tapping into (WSJ paywall) A.I. to speed up drug development. A mass-produced vaccine/drug will still take 18 months to get here. Meanwhile, stocks are tanking across the globe.
Election 2020 update
Super Tuesday dropouts.
Elizabeth Warren and Mike Bloomberg dropped out after poor Super Tuesday showings. It’s a 2-man race at this point between Biden and Sanders.
After Biden’s big Super Tuesday showing, healthcare stocks — particularly, payors — screamed into the stratosphere. UnitedHealth had its best one-day performance in a decade.
Other election stuff to know
Policy Corner, week of 3/9/2020
Sharing personal health data across providers is about to get WAY easier.
For better or worse, HHS released its final interoperability ruling Monday (catch up on interoperability here). The ruling will ease the ways that personal health data can be shared across electronic health record platforms like Epic and Cerner.
- Because the rule standardizes data sharing methods AND mandates that consumers will have access to their own health records online, the final interoperability ruling is expected to have huge effects on the health data industry.
Think about it like this: every provider has its own health records system. This system acts similar to a ‘walled garden‘ for providers, which keeps patients coming back to them.
- With the final HHS interoperability ruling, these walls are coming down. In my mind, that makes it much easier for the patient to switch between providers.
Things to consider: This news ALSO means that new entrants, a la, Amazon/Apple/Google, will have an easier time competing with traditional players like Epic and Cerner. Then there’s also that whole patient data privacy element, too.
- If sharing personal health data gets easier, that means less privacy over your health data. Is this ruling too big of an administrative burden on providers? After all, almost 70% of hospitals still use some sort of mail or faxing for sending and receiving records.
- The WSJ includes some helpful graphics in its write-up (WSJ)
- Long-awaited interoperability rules finalized by Trump admin, prompt industry ire (Healthcare Dive)
- HHS releases final interoperability, data blocking regulations (Fierce Healthcare)
- On the interoperability mandate: healthcare decision-makers surveyed (Reaction Data)
Other policy stuff.
- Ambulatory surgery center Medicare payments might be on the chopping block.
- The Supreme Court weighs on in the Louisiana abortion law (WSJ paywall).
- The Trump administration is cracking down on nursing home regulation.
- Democrats introduce bill to guarantee paid sick leave in response to the coronavirus.
- The Interoperability Schism between Epic and Big Tech Rages on
- LifePoint, a large has-been public hospital operator recently taken private, is selling 2 hospitals to Prisma Health in Tennessee.
- Health Care Service Corp is suing the feds for $2 billion stemming from the ACA risk corridors program.
- Virginia just passed the most stringent insulin price cap to date — $50 per month.
- Oklahoma has plans to expand Medicaid soon.
- Maine voters upheld a ‘controversial’ new law tightening school vaccination requirements
- VCU Health will drop all patient lawsuits stemming from medical debt.
- How much does it cost to develop a drug and bring it to market? $985.3 million.
- The dangers of Medicare for All (NY Times)
- Opinion: Super Tuesday results suggest that Americans ‘aren’t looking for big structural changes’ in health care March 5, 2020 (Stat)
- Medicare-For-All Would Be A Boon To The U.S. Job Market, Study Finds (WaPo)
- Doctors working while sick is bad enough in ordinary times. During the Covid-19 outbreak it could be catastrophic. (Stat)
- Surprise medical bills, coronavirus and bad insurance: 3 arguments for Medicare for All (USA Today)
Thanks for reading.
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