As 2013 comes to a close, we reflect back on what has happened during the year. But with healthcare in such flux and organizations being pulled into a million different directions, let’s take a look into the crystal ball and make some projections about what we might expect in 2014:

  • Healthcare IT: With both ICD-10 and Meaningful Use 2 on stage in 2014, organizations are taking a hard look at their IT systems to determine whether they are giving them what they need. There is significant financial risk to not meeting compliance requirements with these two changes…so having the IT in place and optimized is top of mind.
  • Patient engagement: The experts all agree – healthcare reform will fail without the patient. We saw patients reject managed care in the '90s and we’ll see it again if we don’t bring patients into the mix this time around. With Meaningful Use pushing organizations to get patients to use online patient portals and the rise of coordinated care models such as patient centered medical homes and ACOs (which rely on the patient to make smart medical decisions), we’ll see an increased focus on patient engagement in 2014.
  • Mergers & acquisitions: 2013 saw the beginning of the end of the independent hospital. Giant conglomerates of hospital systems merged with the goal to increase quality and reduce costs. At first glance, we expected this to continue in 2014, but in Massachusetts – which is usually far ahead of the rest of the country – we may be seeing this trend hitting the brakes. The Health Policy Commission just referred Partners intent to purchase South Shore Hospital and Harbor Medical Associates to the Attorney General for review. Nationally, organizations are starting to take a hard look at whether merging just for the sake of size is actually a good long term financial strategy.
  • Exchanges: Are we done talking about them yet? One can dream, but prepare yourself because they are just getting started. Now that seems to be getting on track and patients are actually starting to enroll, we’ll start to see a lot more focus on getting the “invincibles” to enroll. We may also start to see large businesses become portals into the exchanges by providing their employees with a subsidy to purchase insurance rather than providing it themselves.
  • Behavioral Health: We saw tragedy unfold in multiple scenarios across the country this year and health care professionals have begun to question whether improved access to behavioral health could have prevented these unnecessary incidents. In 2014, we will likely see that discussion escalate as public officials and health care professionals grapple with how to reduce the stigma and increase services.

What do you think will be the big healthcare trends in 2014?