Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
The Price of a New Year

The Price of a New Year

Flu Shot

Here we are at the end of another year.  Soon there will be a deluge of predictions. Predictions are fun, especially if nobody comes back to ask you why you miscalled something! So, I am going to get mine in early. Some are more obvious than others. 

I will start with this---I think medical costs will grow at a slightly faster rate than we had in 2017. This is not quite the “no-brainer” as it initially sounds. Remember, we had a couple of years when healthcare costs stayed flat—but, this was but a harbinger of things to come.  I think that time is over.

Why? With the increase in pharmaceuticals alone, the “spend” will go up.  Here at Texas Tech Physicians, we have several examples of expensive infusion drugs that are wonderful the faculty tell me in treating disease, but, oh so expensive. And, if healthcare costs go up (as I’m predicating), the growth of medical costs in the employer insurance market for the coming year is bound to go up. It is not just the cost, it is the utilization.  However, there is an opportunity here for Texas Tech Physicians, with better data and tighter monitoring, it might be possibly to lower overall costs with strict utilization goals. This will require excellent data from Cerner and Centricity. 

Another predication…sadly, the opioid crisis will not be resolved, but it will slow down. Society now sees that “pain as the 5th vital sign” is not good advice. It’s bad advice. I remember some robust discussion when the concept was introduced and looking back, the views of those who doubted its validity have been validated. Manufactures will be concerned about being sued in class-action type law suits similar to what tobacco companies faced years ago over cigarettes.

I think virtual visits are about to take off in a big way. Early this year one of the largest insurers in the US launched virtual visits for more than 1.1 million people enrolled in the company's Medicare health plans. Many other health plan providers are also likely to follow suit. According to a recent healthcare report, the telehealth virtual visits market in the US is projected to reach over $813 million in 2021.

Closely related, I think there will be a growing demand for home-based vital-sign devices, such as home lab testing devices capable of remote managing even chronic patient care. These devices will allow clinical staff from one facility to see and treat patients in the patients’ homes.

Of course, there are downloadable digital apps for providers and patients combined. Why not?  We see them for everything else from pizza delivery to Starbucks. Patients will soon experience low-cost and almost instant lab tests with results. Using computer analytics future devices will also make suitable recommendations for preventive care to patients.

Texas Tech Physicians will see the implementation of a 3-M computer assisted coding program.  A long time in development—I predict it will be welcomed by coder and faculty alike. 

Best wishes to you for 2018!