Barrett Coakley | 12.19.18
Summary >

2018 was an interesting year for the healthcare market, and 2019 is shaping up to be just as exciting. There’s a huge market that needs to be addressed due to the aging of the worldwide population and the desire for seniors to live on their own for as long as possible. Enabling this desire has been the focus of regulators, manufacturers, and investors.

The new year should see the continued impact of these factors, along with new trends rising up to support growth and the desire to achieve economies of scale. Let’s examine a few things you can expect from healthcare in 2019.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) played a prominent role in 2018 and will continue to be front and center for 2019 (and beyond). The primary driver of IoT and connected devices is a significant costs savings for care delivery. In fact, remote care via IoT can lower U.S. employer health care costs by as much as $6 billion a year, according to healthcare consultancy Willis Towers Watson. These connected devices, including in-home sensors and the data that is collected, enable individuals to maintain their independent lives with a much smaller risk. 

A multitude of healthcare device providers are using the Internet of Things to keep patients remotely connected to healthcare providers and services. Firms using connected devices to track patient vital signs and various health status indicators. This is improving patient outcomes while enabling providers to serve more patients, reduce hospital visits, and lower overall healthcare costs. More importantly, these sensors and devices enable seniors to live a normal life at home. Unobtrusively, the devices collect and share readings securely, so any warning signs can be discovered, and any daily medication reminders are proactively sent to patients. As such, expect the home and the healthcare industry to continue to get “smarter.”

Mergers and Acquisitions

Regulators, hospitals, and insurance firms have realized the benefits of delivering care remotely. However, given the difficulty of the job, a tight labor market, and a retiring workforce, hiring has been difficult. The healthcare market has also been traditionally supported by a great number of smaller organizations that concentrate on certain geographies or specialties. But given the market opportunity, investors have been very active with many large-scale merger and acquisition deals to help build larger organizations with greater geographic reach and scale. For example, M&A action in Q3 2018 saw the third consecutive quarter with more than 20 acquisitions, according to data from Norwalk, Connecticut-based market intelligence firm Irving Levin & Associates. Overall, 2018 has seen a “much higher” quarterly volume than during most of 2017.

Lisa Phillips, editor of The HealthCare M&A Report, which publishes the above data, stated:

“Consolidation is driving the recent activity in this market, despite reimbursement and regulatory headwinds. As health systems seek to drive down costs, we expect more to turn to home health care and hospice agencies over traditional post-acute settings like skilled nursing facilities or long-term acute care facilities.”

Given that there is no market share leader, and a need to reduce costs, expect 2019 to continue to be an active year for investors as healthcare firms combine to scale and win share in the market.

Technology Adoption

Historically, back-office administration of patient care has tended to be manual with such things as the use of Excel for scheduling and paper-based time sheets. However, given trends such as increasing demand, shortages of talent to meet the increasing number of patients, regulatory changes, and the need for greater economies of scale, home healthcare providers will need to leverage new technologies. This includes Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to manage sales and customer information, and Human Capital Management (HCM) for employee training and recruiting.

Another technology that your organization should consider to help home providers deliver better care, increase market share, and improve operations is Field Service Management (FSM) software. As more resources and jobs are added to the schedule, it becomes almost impossible for a human to consider all the factors inherent in creating the optimized schedule. Here are some examples about how scale increases complexity:

  • With 3 mobile employees and 3 jobs there are 6 possible ways to schedule the work
  • There are 720 different ways to dispatch 6 employees to do 6 jobs
  • There are 1,307,674,368,000 different ways to dispatch 15 employees to do 15 jobs. (Or more permutations than there are stars in the Milky Way!)

As a result, it is nearly impossible to manually schedule workers or to use a scheduling software that is not built specifically to handle this level of complexity—at least not without sacrificing efficiency and productivity. The sophistication involved in these scenarios is exactly what FSM software was designed to do and has helped countless service organizations provide better customer service, improve operations, and reduce costs.

These are just three areas that we feel will have a big impact in the healthcare space in 2019. Please share your thoughts on what you think will be important in 2019.