December 4, 2018
Welcome to Corner Office – a new series on The Pitch featuring a Q&A with our President Scott Collins. For our inaugural column, we sat down with Scott to talk about healthcare trends that will capture the media’s attention in 2019.
DJ: As we head into the New Year, what topics do you think will dominate the conversation within the healthcare media?
SC: The healthcare conversation continues to ride a series of waves of hot topics and trends. Over the years we have seen precision medicine, population health, Meaningful Use, and the Triple Aim to name just a few. While some of those topics have stayed, morphed, or even gone away completely – there are always new topics being introduced to the conversation.
Next year, I expect AI to eclipse all other hype-cycles as the big buzzword. It’s already becoming ubiquitous, and we can all expect HIMSS to be a full-on AI-extravapalooza. In 2019, AI will mean any SAAS or software solution involving automation, analytics, rules-engine, NLP or speech rec.
Policy-wise, Medicare-for-all looks like it is going to be a big topic dominating the conversation especially on social media. One thing I think is interesting about Medicare-for-all is that advocates seem to do a lot of pointing at everything wrong with healthcare as an argument in favor of Medicare-for-all. For example, you see a lot of posts about denied drugs and procedures. Of course, Medicare-for-all won’t solve those issues, since there would still be the need to cut costs, manage utilization, etc. The passion of the current conversation does shows just how powerful the public’s concern about healthcare is right now, and I think that level of attention will be a good thing for the industry and the nation.
DJ: That’s interesting. From a media perspective, Medicare-for-all is starting to play a larger role in discussions with the national media. Do you think we will see any actual changes or movement on shifting towards a Medicare-for-all system in the next year?
SC: The practicality of Medicare-for-all stands out to me as an issue in 2019. You’re going to try to completely uproot and change this massive trillion dollar industry that’s been in place for ages. That’s not going to happen easily, so it seems very unrealistic that we will have Medicare-for-all in the near future. Until there is a more practical plan or a baby-steps path, the industry won’t likely worry about it, even if it continues to dominate the news headlines.
Despite the lack of practicality, Medicare-for-all will drive the conversation and have ripple effects throughout the healthcare industry – especially in healthcare communications. That should ultimately be a good thing, as we’ve not had a broader conversation about healthcare reform recently. Not since Obamacare came about has there been any actual political debate about healthcare reform, and maybe Medicare-for-all will actually make the discussions happen on a broader scale.
DJ: Besides Medicare-for-all, what other topics do you think will continue to dominate the headlines?
SC: Value-based care is going to continue to be a big topic. While some of the initial hype cycle has subsided, the actual regulatory frameworks are starting to come into place and gain traction. For example, starting in 2019 there is a new value-based care model for long-term care and rehab facilities, more bundled payment packages in approval and new MACRA guidelines coming out. There continues to be an emphasis on shifting from cost to quality, which is making the reality of value-based care a bigger deal.
DJ: While it is hard to believe, we’re already in the throes of #HIMSSanity. What buzzwords do you think will be big at the HIMSS19 in February?
SC: Again, I think AI and machine learning will be the big terms at HIMSS. While I think those terms might be quickly falling into the “trough of disillusionment,” there are still many parts of AI and machine learning that are very practical and viable technology applications. Radiology, for example, seems to be well ahead in terms of practically applying AI for auto-diagnostic support and comparative analyses. The more these terms get abuse, though, the more they will feel like an amorphous blob, even if there are actual technologies under that umbrella – like rules engines or analytics –that have proven value.
I also think we will be hearing more about process or workflow automation that will handle more of the routine tasks in healthcare. We have talked to a lot of companies who are doing that, and are seeing more companies try to move into healthcare space as they have already been successful with the technology in other industries such as manufacturing. Automation is definitely another buzzword we will be keeping an eye out for at the show.
DJ: Any other final thoughts you want to share?
SC: My final takeaway for next year is that ‘credibility wins.’ The market is sick and tired of hype and information they cannot trust. Brands that can establish credibility with their audiences, and make people feel like the things we say are real, that what we say we do we actually do and the results we say get we actually get – these will be the brands that win and that people will gravitate towards. With so much “BS-fatigue,” brands that are able to break through that noise will be poised to stand out.
Looking back on 2018, it was a great year for healthcare. The market has been very busy and it looks like that will continue into 2019. We are excited to be part of this big surge in the healthcare industry and to help make it a big success for everyone else involved.