Last December, I published a blog post outlining “7 Bold Predictions for Healthcare in 2017”. As 2017 comes to a close, let’s look back and see whether any of my predictions actually came true.
#1. Amazon will make a big splash in the medical payments space.
No, patients haven’t started paying for outpatient visits using their Prime accounts. That’s because where someone like myself sees an opportunity to disrupt an an existing paradigm, Amazon looks for a way to circumvent the system entirely.
- Amazon is hiring people to break into the multibillion-dollar pharmacy market – CNBC
- Fears of Amazon drug push rattle US healthcare industry – Financial Times
- Fears of Amazon moving into prescription drug sales are already disrupting health care – Chicago Tribune
Why bother getting traditional provider clinics to adopt your payment gateway when you can just create your own PBM and go directly to your giant, loyal customer base? There’s a reason Amazon is Amazon and everyone else is, well, everyone else.
While I was wrong about the first move, it is clear that Amazon is looking very seriously at healthcare and will be making major waves in coming years. Stay tuned. CVS’s recent purchase of Aetna (antitrust concerns withstanding) may be the first of many dominoes as current stalwarts prepare for Amazon’s calculated entrance into healthcare.
#2. Under Armour will make a significant move into the clinical space.
Strike two. Place me alongside the hundreds of VCs who were a bit too bullish about wearables and fitness communities potential to make immediate waves in traditional clinical settings. While Under Armour’s CTO is on record calling the company, “The Largest Digital Health and Fitness Company on Earth”, they are steering clear of the FDA and other paths into traditional care environments.
Outside of a brief bit of publicity about a partnership with Johns Hopkins and IBM Watson respectively, there has been little healthcare news out of Baltimore. With missed earnings dominating the headlines, it’s a good bet they have some bigger fish to fry and are putting the digital health stuff on hold for a bit.
#3. Video games promoting health and wellness will make waves.
“Video games” might not be the right term, but you know what, I’m going to give myself this one because there was a significant breakthrough this year with regards to Virtual Reality. Cedars-Sinai has been leading the charge to identify use cases where patients can be provided a virtual reality headset and taken on a helicopter ride over Iceland or brought to a serene field accompanied by soothing music as an alternative to traditional pharmaceutical painkillers. This year, they published findings from a study detailing the effects of VR use with 100 patients—and the results are encouraging, with patients reporting a “24% drop in pain scores after using the technology”.
For anyone interested in the evolution of VR as a viable tool for clinicians, I highly recommend following Dr. Brennan Spiegel. He is leading most of the VR research at Cedars-Sinai and is one of the more vocal evangelists of its use in healthcare.
#4. Someone will raise a tractor-load of money to create the WeWork/WeLive for seniors.
Strike three. No one made headlines shouting about how they are going to “disrupt senior living”—a missed opportunity in my mind, as with all of the money flying around, I still feel like it’s a story you can raise money on. I suppose the difficulties associated with development, staffing, and maintenance of such a community could be seen as off putting, especially when there are so many opportunities to build software that can scale without all the messy realities of building and operating physical entities for human beings.
To be clear, there are certainly examples of organizations offering new takes on senior living, just none that are doing so in a very big, very loud manner. Realistically, that’s probably for the better—I’m not sure you can “scale” that kind of community. It’s probably better off cultivated in a targeted manner focused solely on the unique needs of a particular group. Whether or not any of the new entrants into the space dominate headlines, it is important that we develop new ways to care for our seniors. With more and more research coming out on the loneliness epidemic, this kind of work couldn’t be more meaningful.
#5. An infrastructure failing causes a public health disaster similar to Flint, MI.
Gulp. Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, California (North and South)... 2017 has featured one disaster after another. While most of the examples that dominated headlines were natural disasters, not technically infrastructure failings, the result is just the same: unclean air and water, no electricity, no water. The lasting health implications of these events are truly staggering, and this year exposed that our ability to respond might not be as robust as we all thought.
Oh, and Flint? Don’t forget about them. They aren’t out of the woods yet.
#6. In-home medical diagnostic devices revolutionize Telemedicine and become ubiquitous like Fitbit.
Shoutout to Sherman Leung who shared his perspective on this prediction. I’d say he was spot on, so I’ll just repost his analysis here and quietly nod my head in agreement:
“I don't think this will happen in the upcoming year. There's a big difference between "diagnostic devices" as you call them and "clinical grade, consumer-facing devices that allow patients to administer readings on themselves." I don't think the general public is ready to trust a device more than a physician and the best we'll probably be able to do is devices at home that are providing more real-time and longitudinal datasets that can *assist* physicians in making a diagnosis. Even with this lower bar, I'd be surprised if that even takes off - companies like Kinsa Health I think are one of the more innovative movers in this general space, but its been hard to get traction even with such an interesting product.”
#7. We see a significant rise in voluntary services/healthcare for the wealthy.
Looking back, this wasn’t a very bold prediction, but that's not going to stop me from counting it as correct. It will be interesting to watch how things shake out as more providers explore “cash only” models. For now, I’ll just leave you with the reminder that each 45-minute Soul Cycle class costs $34. But who can put a price on their health, right?
When trying to guess the “next-big-thing” in healthcare, it is important to remember one thing: in this industry, things take time. What might seem like a hot and exciting trend probably won’t achieve significant impact for a few years. It’s just the nature of change in healthcare, and if I’m being honest with myself, I’d say that it's a good thing.
This year, we are going to do things a little differently—we still plan to publish our 2018 predictions, but the format will be changed and we will solicit input from a wider group. Stay tuned early in the new year when we release our outlook for 2018.
Until then, thanks for reading! Have a wonderful end to 2017.
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