Were the seeds of 2017 sown in 2007?

Author: Myra Knoesen

According to PwC’s Health Research Institute’s annual report ‘Top health industry issues of 2017, A year of uncertainty and opportunity’ – patient-centrism, consumer choice, quality, affordability – are hallmarks of the pivot toward value-based care, one of the most powerful forces reshaping the industry.

The report states many of the top health industry issues of 2017 highlight how this shift toward value is occurring, and how traditional health organizations and new entrants are responding to it.

There are three main tactics that organizations will use to address this shift to value – they will adapt, they will innovate and they will build new programs and approaches to their work.

The start of it all

Accordingly, the report states the seeds of many of 2017’s issues were sown in 2007. Here are just two examples of the findings:

•In 2007, obesity was the new smoking, with employer incentives considered to push employees to lose weight. In 2017, diet-related health issues, including obesity, were addressed by health organizations and employers focusing on nutrition.
•In 2007, the industry embarked on digitalization with slow electronic health record (EHR) uptake. Less than 9% of hospitals had a basic EHR system. In 2017, nearly 90% of hospitals had basic EHRs. The question now is, how to use emerging technologies such as Blockchain, drones and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Dr Katlego Mothudi, Managing Director at the Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) of Southern Africa said, “In South Africa, and globally, I think that 2007 was probably the time that the real impact of the burden of non-communicable diseases on healthcare and social systems started gaining impetus. Since then, we have seen enormous emphasis being placed on healthy living, the importance of primary and preventative healthcare, and the need to manage non-communicable diseases. With the pressing epidemics like HIV under better control and management, the focus turned to diseases such as diabetes and hypertension and the impact that smoking and obesity were having on the burden of disease. Smoking laws were passed, a focus was placed on diet and lifestyle and even National Treasury supported this with the introduction of sin taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.”

Uncertainty and opportunity 

The eight technologies, according to the report, with great potential to disrupt the health industry over the next decade include: AI; Augmented reality (AR); Blockchain; Drones; Internet of Things (IoT); Robots; Virtual reality (VR) and 3D printing.

“Today we see many health apps and tools designed to track and improve health. Wearable devices have taken off and consumers have embraced the concept – from managing diabetes through to monitoring fitness levels and exercise. This trend is also impacting managed care and wellness providers who are registering devices and using these to manage employee and beneficiary wellness. The scope for tech and AI is huge when you consider that now so much more can be done in terms of monitoring, analysis and even diagnosis. AI is part of the future of healthcare, and it will evolve in a way that will help doctors, not replace them,” said Dr Mothudi.

The local landscape 

The issues going into 2018, Dr Mothudi emphasises, are on the cost of healthcare delivery, the quality of healthcare provision, the governance of healthcare institutions and management entities, the burden of disease and the impact of technology on delivery, diagnosis, managing costs and improving healthcare outcomes.

“Healthcare reform, Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the White Paper on National Health Insurance (NHI) as one of the vehicles towards achieving UHC were top of mind in the health industry issues of 2017, and will remain so for the foreseeable future,” continued Dr Mothudi.

“2017 was a year of uncertainty in terms of what this reform will ultimately mean for healthcare management and provision going forward. From an industry perspective, there are many burning questions as to how the healthcare sector will be reformed, how it will be structured, how it will be funded and how the private healthcare industry will be able to participate and at what level,” he said.

“Finding lasting solutions to these challenges will require several significant structural reforms to occur within the health sector. The steps towards universal healthcare coverage are not always smooth or clear, and it is not a one-size-fits all scenario, despite there being some common elements between the different strategies deployed around the world,” he continued.

Participation going forward 

Going forward, Dr Mothudi mentions that broader stakeholder participation is needed between government, healthcare funders, healthcare providers, employer groups and civil society in processes that support coherent decision-making and oversight as the journey towards UHC unfolds.

“The private sector must play a role in the achievement of UHC from the outset as it is an engine of growth that often excels in innovation, financial management, risk taking and entrepreneurship and customer care. The private sector can provide meaningful input and participate in the consultative process to ensure that the extensive experience and capacity of the private sector is not lost to the South African national healthcare project. The medical schemes, administrators and service providers can play a role in delivering a well-managed, functional and financially viable universal healthcare model for all South Africans that embraces public and private participation and buy-in, and ensures the continued sustainability of the entire healthcare sector,” he concluded.

Source: FA News