7 bold predictions for healthcare in 2017

December 8, 2016
George McLaughlin Director of Solutions Marketing

With the new year fast approaching, we took some time to think about the future of healthcare and predict what significant stories we’ll see play out over the next year. Join us as we gaze into our snow covered crystal ball (it’s cold here in Wisconsin) for seven bold healthcare predictions for 2017.

1. Amazon will make a big splash in the medical payments space.

Most of the buzz surrounding Amazon in the healthcare space has been associated with “Alexa”, the voice recognition software that powers the popular Echo device. Entrepreneurs around the world are scrambling to build on top of this platform to create the future of home care and monitoring solutions for the elderly. While we are very excited for these solutions, predicting them is too easy, so let’s think a little outside of the box.

If you aren’t aware, Amazon Payments gateway is taking over e-commerce. They use your existing information and payment details to simplify the checkout process on any website by an order of magnitude. Why wouldn’t we also see this in healthcare, where billing is an antiquated mess of physical mailings, voicemails, and easily-missed patient portal messages? Creating a user friendly, quick process for paying for office visits and services received only makes sense, and we expect Amazon to start claiming their piece of the healthcare billing pie.

2. Under Armour will make a significant move into the clinical space.

We have a feeling Apple isn’t going to be the only consumer product giant making big splashes in the digital health space. Our prediction takes us far away from Silicon Valley to Baltimore’s inner harbor. Endomondo, MapMyFitness, MyFitnessPal… with nearly $1 billion spent on acquisitions in the past few years and a reported “digital health and fitness community” exceeding 150 million users, Kevin Plank’s firmly positioned Under Armour as a company to watch in digital health.

What we expect this year is a big announcement that moves beyond consumer facing applications and looks toward partnerships with blue chip health systems (fellow Baltimore stalwart John’s Hopkins perhaps?) that takes the powerful user base and expands into the clinical space for use by providers and researchers.

3. Video games promoting health and wellness will make waves.

Everyone was buzzing this year about worldwide phenomenon Pokemon Go’s ability to, amazingly, get people outside. We expect this success to spill over into healthcare where “gamification” has long been a buzzword but not enough understanding around the potential impact has lead to half-hearted attempts. What we saw is the power of a truly good video game to have a positive impact on behaviors and actions.

We expect more games to be launched this year that build on this principle. If you need any inspiration, I highly suggest looking across the pond to the Netherlands where the company Grendel Games has been creating healthcare-facing games that feel like, you guessed it, actual video games. Here is an example of making rehab exercises fun by allowing users to play as a gryphon, and here is a puzzle game that actually simulates surgery functions and can be used to train and maintain laparoscopic skills. Our guess for this year (piggybacking on TechCrunch’s fantastic piece): giant strides in games using virtual reality to promote mental health.

4. Someone will raise a tractor load of money to create the WeWork/WeLive for seniors.

Aging alone is a huge problem in America today. Couple the recent rates of divorce with the lower levels of families having children and we are witnessing a generation of aging seniors dealing with never-before-seen levels of isolation. Hell, Huffington Post has an entire section devoted to the issue. Where many fret though, we as entrepreneurs see great opportunity!

We believe this year an organization will make inroads in reimagining the assisted living concept by creating a community focused housing option for older individuals. We saw how WeWork took the Coworking movement and turned it on its head by making giant real estate investments and creating a very specific experience for its users. They have since moved into Coliving for hip young professionals with WeLive, but where is the solution targeting the 60+ crowd? This time next year, we think the leader in this space will become much more clear and the country will be better off for it.

5. An infrastructure failing causes a public health disaster similar to Flint, MI.

Flint’s water crisis is a well-documented and horrifying example of the potential population health concerns of our crumbling infrastructure and, unfortunately, we don’t think it is the last. This is an example of the piper coming to collect his debts and more communities will be rocked before enough emphasis is placed on investing in our nationwide infrastructure to prevent future catastrophes. This author’s hometown, Milwaukee, WI is currently dealing with a giant problem of lead in water pipes and we expect similar stories to pop up throughout the year.

6. In-home medical diagnostic devices revolutionize Telemedicine and become ubiquitous like Fitbit.

Many publications are predicting this is the year that Telemedicine finally becomes mainstream. We agree, but the reason (in our eyes) is the advancement in consumer-facing medical devices that will increase the quality of care that is able to be delivered via these remote systems. As a patient, it is incredibly difficult to articulate the issues you are having, making diagnosis and treatment a guessing game. What if there were devices that took the translation piece out of the equation and gave providers consistent, dependable data they could use to make accurate recommendations? Well, it’s coming.

Groups like Tytocare have finally gained FDA approval to bring easy-to-use, clinical grade, consumer-facing devices that allow patients to administer readings on themselves and loved ones which can be used (and trusted) by caregivers. We expect an explosion of these kinds of devices in homes across the country over the course of 2017. We all grew up with a thermometer in our home’s first aid kit, the next generation will grow up with something much more powerful.

7. We see a significant rise in voluntary services/ healthcare for the wealthy.

At this point, it’s a borderline law of nature: the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The debate on why this is and what we can do about it is best waged somewhere else, but the effects of this reality lead us to predict that more and more boutique healthcare services for the wealthy will emerge.

We’ve seen the cyrotherapy trend sweep the fitness community and subscription healthcare services like Parsley Health are beginning to target the Lululemon-and-pressed-juice consumer, offering advanced health and wellness coaching beyond your traditional primary care physician. While those with disposable income have long been able to live healthier lives by spending more money on food and services like massage therapy, we expect more entrepreneurs to develop healthcare-facing solutions solely targeting the wealthiest of Americans.

What do you think?

Hit us up in the comments with your bold prediction for healthcare in 2017, and let us know what you think of ours.