Eight forces that will define the future of health care

Optum | September 1, 2020

The health care industry will never “go back to normal” after coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). While the industry has been grappling with an overhaul for some time, the pandemic has accelerated change into previously unseen speeds. To navigate this new, altered landscape, leaders must work to address the long-term economic impact and the radical, permanent change that the pandemic has created.

The insights in this report are derived from industry stakeholders, including health plans, providers, life sciences, employers, government agencies and consumers. Combined with findings from reopening and recovery work across the country, these perspectives identify emerging dynamics that will directly impact the industry and its leaders.

Defining the eight forces of the future

These eight macro environmental features have emerged in the broader national landscape since the onset of COVID-19.

      1. Economic limitations — Significant unemployment, business reconfiguration and a slow return to economic stability and growth.
      2. Consumerism — Increased consumer decision-making for all things health and wellness as trade-offs increase.
      3. Reconfigured delivery models — Nontraditional entrants, telemedicine, digital expansion, and disruption.
      4. Decreased total cost of care — Accelerating expectations to decrease total cost of care and improve overall health care affordability.
      5. Demand for advanced analytics — Increased reliance on interoperability through use of advanced analytics, predictive modeling and artificial intelligence.
      6. Value chain reorganization — Meaningful reorganization within the health care value chain to prioritize value creation and holistic care coordination.
      7. Holistic risk considerations — Measuring and managing risk holistically, including considerations for social determinants of health, critical components of delivery and financing models.
      8. Regulatory refinement — Regulatory reaction and reprioritization at federal and state levels as a result of significant budget pressures.

Shifting long-term goals into near-term mandates
The very nature of a crisis accelerates activity and accentuates key priorities. COVID-19 has fast-tracked future goals, uprooting timetables and requiring that organizations take action or risk becoming obsolete. Now, in addition to eliminating unnecessary costs, improving outcomes and increasing satisfaction, organizations are put to the test responding to the changing dynamics across the system and the broader economy.

Where focus was once on three- to five-year plans, insights from frequent pulse checks on a monthly and quarterly basis may prove to be more valuable. Now is also the time for organizations to be vigilant in re-examining their missions and priorities, keeping what remains relevant and cost-effective, and cutting or outsourcing remaining capabilities.

Resiliency depends on agility
Already, staffing, operations, supply chains and delivery channels are beginning to experience instability as unpredictable demands become the norm. While changes are necessary, it is also critical that disruption to workflows remains limited. As organizations prepare to enter a state of recovery, every leader can explore key questions to stay aligned with new expectations.

Health care beyond crisis
The impact of COVID-19 will be significant and long-lasting. This report takes an in-depth look at each of the eight foundational changes that will influence the future health care landscape, and what leaders can do today to help take their organization past this crisis.

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About the Author

Optum, Author

Optum is a leading health services and innovation company dedicated to helping make the health system work better for everyone. With more than 124,000 people collaborating worldwide, Optum combines technology, data and expertise to improve the delivery, quality and efficiency of health care.