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2017: What can we expect?

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Posted February 2, 2017

1. Repeal of the Affordable Care Act

President Trump has already made it clear that this is one of his first priorities when he assumes office. The groundwork was already laid with the combination of the Senate passing a budget measure that was supported by Congress, and this week Trump issued an executive order to start rolling back the ACA. Now, the ACA is not without fault as we’ve discussed before; premiums have increased for many users, and the lack of true, universal coverage means many who don’t need coverage would rather pay the penalty than enrol. But repealing it without a replacement could be a disaster for many Americans. The Washington Post estimates that the repeal will kill more than 43,000 annually (based on this study in the NEJM). The impacts will be felt beyond the healthcare system though, with evidence from California suggesting that such a move could affect everyone involved with the health industry ranging from hospitals, food, and transportation services that all work together to provide patient care. Estimates from this study suggest up to 209,000 people would lose their jobs, and it would cost California over $20 billion dollars. It remains to be seen what replacement is offered, but the transition between the two is one that needs to navigated delicately.

2. The next Zika outbreak

The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus was contained, but that doesn’t mean we can stop being vigilant | Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Over the past three years, we’ve seen outbreaks crossing borders and affect citizens of multiple countries and regions. We’ve seen the emergence of the Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV), an Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and most recently, the Zika virus, among many others. Increased globalization and travel mean now, more than ever, we need to work together in order to track diseases as they emerge in order to ensure that when an outbreak occurs, we can isolate and treat affected individuals, while also ensuring we understand where the disease originated and if we can take steps to prevent it from happening again. While we’ve made a lot of progress over the past ten years, with Zika being one important example of governments working together and sharing information, we have to remain vigilant to ensure that we are at a state of constant readiness.

3. The healthcare startup space will continue to grow and surprise us

It was only ten years ago that Fitbit was founded, and we’ve seen many other companies come through with different innovations. Now, there are reasonably priced, consumer-grade solutions for tracking heart rate, movement, GPS position and other factors while you work out. This is in addition to smart devices such as smart scales and smart blood glucose monitors. In short, if you’ve got something that tracks your health, you can probably find a version that pairs to your smart phone and uploads the data to the cloud. As this space continues to grow, we’ll see more and more innovative and creative solutions to track and monitor your health, which makes this a very exciting time for healthcare.

4. Increased adoption of telemedicine

The idea that you can see your physician using a webcam or a similar device is not a new one. However, we’ve lacked the tools and technology to really make this a reality. The proliferation of broadband, and decreased cost of such devices means that we can explore this as a way to increase coverage for patients who may not be able to make it into appointments to see their physician because of issues ranging from mobility, accessibility, or cost. This isn’t without problems, and issues around security and privacy are paramount. However, the benefits to patient care in terms of helping them schedule appointments more easily around their schedule, reducing the costs associated with travel to and from a hospital, and the ability to convenience of seeing someone from the comfort of your own home, are worth the challenge. In fact, Kaiser Permanente has been piloting such a system with success, and their hope is that by 2018 over half of their appointments will be done virtually.

5. We’ll see a new player in healthcare we weren’t expecting

As with most top five lists, one of the predictions has to be bold, and this is mine. I think this year we’ll see a new player in healthcare, and we won’t expect them. A company like Apple or Alphabet or an innovator like Elon Musk will create a solution to a problem we didn’t know we had, and will shake things up. Maybe Samsung will create a smart monitor for people who are home alone that links to their alarm system that calls 911 in the event that someone has a stroke or faints, or maybe the Alexa will be able to tell you if it’s sensing a trend in your blood pressure that could be of concern. Who knows, but the opportunities are there and ripe for the taking.

Source: PLOS EveryONE

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