Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Forecasting the Future of Health Care

Forecasting the Future of Health Care

If you went to the archives of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and looked at the Sunday, August 2, 1987, edition of the newspaper, you would see an article that I wrote on the future of health care. At the time, I was a vice president at Methodist Hospital, now Covenant Medical Center. Not sure what prompted me to write the article, but I did. 

Forecasting is always difficult. John Kenneth Galbraith famously said: “Economic forecasting exists to make astrology look respectable.” You could probably say the same about forecasting health care trends. My forecast was for the year 2000, which we have obviously blown past. Anyway, I came across the article in a storage box while looking for something else the other day.

I re-read my article to see what I got right and what I got wrong.

On the “right” side of the ledger, I have these things:

  • More “self-care,” including over the counter testing
  • Medicare and Medicaid will tighten rules on what procedures they will cover financially
  • Medical claims will be denied more frequently by third-party payers
  • Computers would be used extensively including standardization of protocols and patient monitoring. Home use, too.
  • More hospitals will close their doors

On the “wrong” side of the ledger, I have these things:

  • A means test for Medicare beneficiaries
  • Not-for-profit hospitals will have to provide a greater amount of indigent care to retain tax-exempt status
  • Hospitals will morph into health care centers, with less emphasis on acute care and more on chronic illness

Big things that I missed—I was thinking more of chronic disease versus infectious disease and did not mention the possibility of a pandemic. A clear, unfortunate, and somewhat naive oversight. Although I did talk about acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) prominently in the article, not surprisingly since it was 1987. (The progress we have made in addressing AIDS-related illness in the last four decades is remarkable and something for which we have such gratitude and count as a great blessing to the world.)

Of course, I missed a little thing called the Internet, but did have a prominent role for computers. I just did not think they would all be linked together world-wide! I am not going to try to cover the entire article, just some snippets from it. Looking ahead is fun. Where do you think the health care world will be in 2050? Jot your thoughts down and look at them 28 years from now!