By 2010, 16 percent of all spending in the United States is projected to be for health care. In 1997, it was 13.6 percent.
With this upward trend, along with an aging population, health care companies must do more than they are today, because the demands won’t simply be for more volume of care, but better quality and speedier delivery.
PricewaterhouseCoopers recently commissioned a worldwide study on the future of health care. The findings illustrate several implications health care companies need to consider if they are to survive in this future world:
- Health care organizations that are consumer friendly will be winners. Organizations must change their processes, technology and organizational structure with an emphasis on delivery systems, attitudes and self-training. They must integrate eligibility, claims, referrals and authorizations into a customer-friendly process.
Consumers will be stratified between e-health and traditional patients. Companies must have systems to deal with both of these groups.
- Organizations must distinguish themselves through branding. Consumerism will blur the lines between wellness, acute care, chronic care and long-term care.
All health care companies will need to brand both at the corporate and sub-brand levels to attract capital, customers and market share.
- Service and speed will be keys to consumer satisfaction. The Internet has fostered the notion of I-time. To compete in I-time, health care organizations must develop virtual brains also known as knowledge management so workers and management can learn from each other in a fast-changing industry.
Through knowledge management, they must collect, consolidate and analyze information to better understand their consumers, decision-making processes and perceptions of services relative to competitors.
- New e-business models will emerge and challenge present-day medicine delivery vehicles. The Internet gives the advantage to speed over size.
Bureaucratic health care organizations will fail in this race to smaller, adaptive entrepreneurial ventures.
- The race for capital will hinge on the ability to demonstrate quality, efficiency and customer focus. Organizations will compete for capital on the basis of current, quantifiable and competitive data.
Their investors, whether they are government or private sources, will demand prudent expenditures in facilities, technology and organizational relationships. Losing the information race will mean losing the capital race.
- Functional silos in health care must be eliminated and replaced with seamless service. Professionals may impede change as they cling to traditional frameworks. Physicians are becoming more coherently organized, which benefits purchasers who are trying to work toward efficient models of quality care.
But as physicians form larger networks, health networks are often destabilized and consumers are unsure about who their providers are.
- Resources must be reallocated to retrain the work force to deal with empowered consumers and technology.
- Payers must stress prevention, because early detection and intervention will increase costs. As a result of the Human Genome Project, consumers may begin getting their own individual genetic maps by 2010.
Their risks for different diseases will be clearer, and they’ll want to do something about those risks.
- Consumers will want more and won’t want to pay for it. There will be increasing demand on health care providers and purchasers to spend more on information technology and skilled workers to serve demanding consumers.
- New opportunities for private health insurers outside the U.S. will expand rapidly.
- Medical professionals need to work toward global standards of medical treatment.
- Ethical dilemmas will proliferate for consumers, providers and purchasers. The Human Genome Project will push the envelope in terms of how medical information is collected, disseminated and organized.
In addition, new waves of medical devices and drugs will elevate questions of medical necessity, personal responsibility and rationing.
Todd Shryock (email@example.com) is SBN’s special reports editor.