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As we prepare to take on the challenges and opportunities of a new year, let’s lay out some of the industry’s macro trends and what they might mean to us in 2019.

This year, there is a theme. As patients, we have an increasingly consumer-oriented mindset—and rightfully so. We’re paying closer attention to the quality and value we’re getting for the money we’re spending. This “consumerization” of healthcare, along with constant technology innovation, is driving a tectonic shift across the industry, and it’s easy to be excited about what the future holds. 

After nearly 40 years in this business, I’d better be getting good at reading between the lines to understand what’s coming next. So without further ado, here are my top seven health IT predictions for 2019.

  1. Consumerization of healthcare reaches tipping point: This year will be the tipping point for the consumerization of healthcare. Consumer experiences with healthcare aren’t being compared to previous healthcare experiences, but rather to other aspects of their lives. Consumers want better, faster, higher quality care experiences. Driven by the app economy, this next wave of healthcare will be motivated by consumer demand and access to quality, cost, location, brand, and reviews – without sacrificing speed of service.
  2. Telehealth, mobility and millennials will upend the who and where of care delivery: From urgent care to “Dr. Google” the state of care delivery is swiftly being disrupted. Connected devices, on-demand care, retail and urgent care clinics, will become increasingly more mainstream. Because of these disparate sources of care, patients will need an information pipeline so healthcare providers can have access to where patients have received care, their medical records from anywhere in the country, and real-time, accurate medication histories to ensure quality care.
  3. Consumers will demand healthcare price transparency: Beyond the recent push for drug manufacturers to display their pricing in their ads, consumers will increasingly require knowing how much they will be spending out-of-pocket when they go to the doctor’s office, clinic, hospital or pharmacy. Healthcare will be consumed like other products and services with consumers expecting more transparency, options, and information when it comes to healthcare transactions. To that end, we foresee greater industry adoption of technologies that enable this monumental shift in healthcare with patient-specific, prescription price transparency tools being a vital first step in this transformation.
  4. People will insist on the ability to easily share their health data -- forcing the industry to accelerate interoperability solutions: Interoperability will significantly advance this year. Consumers want the ability to easily and seamlessly share their health data with the medical professionals they chose without expending extra effort and avoiding the red tape, and they expect their care providers to be able to do the same with each other. This patient demand will accelerate the need for interoperability solutions. Healthcare organizations will seek health IT vendors that can help them solve this challenge, which will lead to an improved patient experience, better care outcomes and reduced costs.
  5. Increased interoperability will propel value-based care: Patient demand for data sharing and improved interoperability will have the added side-effect of propelling industry-wide momentum toward value-based care in 2019. The lack of interoperability has historically stifled its growth. With access to complete patient information a truly value-based care system will finally realize its potential.
  6. Initially driven by government regulations, the health IT industry will take the lead on battling the opioid epidemic: 2018 saw tremendous movement on the opioid epidemic with regulations being passed at the federal and state levels. There were more than 50 different bills, and various agencies working on it across the federal landscape, as well as at the state and local levels. In 2011, Surescripts introduced Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS). Today, 21% of all controlled substances are prescribed electronically. We anticipate that this percentage will continue to grow significantly, as a result of additional states passing EPCS laws, pending Federal legislation, and Walmart’s recently announced requirement for EPCS with Medicare Part D prescriptions. This coming year we will also see a pivot in the opioid battle from government to private industry. Now that the regulatory foundation has been set, the health IT industry will take a more active role in delivering solutions that will help prescribers safely and securely provide opioid pain management for patients with a true therapeutic need while simultaneously identifying and mitigating potential prescription opioid fraud and misuse.
  7. The healthcare market will demand easier, more appropriate access to high cost specialty drugs: With no end in sight for the steep increases in the specialty drug market used to treat complex medical conditions, there will be increased market demand for easier, more appropriate access to these high cost drugs. Right now the process for prescribing is manual and tedious. There will be IT innovations targeting the specialty drug market to make the process less painful -- so that the people who need the drugs, can get them.

Once again, the stakes will be high in 2019. And once again, my money is on the people and organizations who dedicate themselves to serving patients, whether through clinical expertise, technology or both. The intersection of the two is where American healthcare’s potential stretches beyond anything we could dream up. And when we arm the world’s best clinicians with the world’s best health information technology, there’s simply no limit to what we can achieve.