Rarely a day passes without someone asking me where I think health care will be five years from now. I’m not a fortuneteller, but I do know a working crystal ball when I see one. And none work better than McKesson’s Better Health Tour events, where the thoughts shared by attendees offer important clues to health care’s future and how the industry will get there from here.

Last week, I had the privilege of moderating “Better Health Twin Cities: Continuing the Conversation” in Minneapolis. It was a 90-minute follow-up event to last June’s Better Health Twin Cities, the third of four stops on the Better Health Tour. Through a series of interactive exercises, small group discussions and private conversations with the 40 or so health care leaders from Minneapolis and St. Paul, I picked up six key insights on where the industry is now, where it will be in 2020 and what needs to happen in between.

Channeling my inner Nostradamus, here are six predictions gleaned from “Continuing the Conversation”:

  1. A startup will emerge that will change the EHR landscape.
    Providers have a love-hate relationship with entrenched, monolithic EHR vendors. They appreciate the stability and predictability of products and services those vendors provide. But they’re growing impatient with what they perceive as a lack of innovation, awkward usability and rigid approaches. As one attendee noted, it’s time for a “Google-like” entrant to emerge on the scene and replace the incumbent “Microsoft.” By 2020, watch for at least one new EHR vendor to emerge and re-set the rules of the game.
  2. Insurance innovation will be as important as technology innovation.
    Health insurance products are still designed from the “payer-out” rather than from the “consumer-in.” As patients take on higher deductibles, they will become far more discerning insurance shoppers and gravitate toward insurance offerings highly tailored to their individual needs, rather than generic plans. By 2020, payers that effectively crack the code on “mass customization” will dominate.
  3. Predictive analytics will become “table stakes.”
    One of the most important – if not the most important – capabilities that payers and providers are clamoring for is predictive analytics. They’ve beefed up their ability to collect data. However, they remain very limited in their ability to effectively analyze that data across systems and care settings, predict what various enrollee or patient segments will need, and evaluate whether medical care is effective. Watch for the emergence of a new analytics paradigm by 2020 that’s as disruptive as iTunes was for the music industry.
  4. Patient data will become as securely accessible as cash from an ATM.
    Today, patient data remains trapped in silos across health care. As one attendee put it, “HIPAA is often used as an excuse. In fact, many organizations hold onto patient data because it allows them to create ‘barriers to exit’ for their patients.” The rise of health care consumerism will put those organizations at a disadvantage compared to those that allow patients to access their data securely and easily across systems and settings. Can you imagine choosing a bank today that only allowed you to withdraw cash from ATMs in its proprietary network?
  5. Medication adherence will be a business imperative.
    Improving medication adherence is already a priority for everyone along the health care delivery chain, with the obvious exception of non-adherent patients. However, with the growing prevalence of high-deductible plans, patients will have a much greater financial incentive to take their meds properly. Consequently, we will see a proliferation of insurance-driven solutions that link better adherence to lower premiums, resulting in a step-change improvement in overall medication adherence and compliance.
  6. Millennials will transform the doctor-patient relationship.
    A huge demographic split divides the medical community between older physicians who view patients through a Baby Boomer or Gen X lens and younger physicians who view patients through a Gen Y or Millennial lens. Through the former, doctors see a picture of themselves knowing what’s best for the patient and in charge of patient care. Through the latter, doctors see themselves as shared decision-makers and partners with patients. They will readily use Google, WebMD, Wikipedia and other new media to partner with patients in ways that are aligned with their patients’ existing information consumption habits. By 2020, Millennial-inspired medicine will rule, changing the nature of the doctor-patient relationship forever.

Where do you see the future?

For more insights from “Continuing the Conversation,” see the full event summary.

Andy Burtis

About the author

A midwesterner by birth and a Californian at heart, Andy Burtis is SVP of Corporate Marketing and Communications at McKesson Corporation. His responsibilities include corporate brand strategy, public relations, McKesson.com, employee communications, executive communications and event marketing. Prior to joining McKesson in 2006, Burtis was senior director of Marketing Communications for Siebel Systems. He holds a BA degree from Carleton College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.