"Do-it-yourself healthcare", including mobile apps and consumer medical devices, is set to be the top healthcare trend of 2015, according to research and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. PwC announced its top 10 predicted healthcare trends of 2015 in a webinar , and their top three are mobile health-related trends, with mobile and digital playing a role in several more.
"For the first time really we’re discovering physicians are expressing much more openness and willingness to consider information about their patients coming from DIY devices," Ceci Connolly, Leader of PwC’s Health Research Institute, said during the webinar.
Connolly specifically mentioned devices and apps that can monitor vital signs, analyze blood and urine, and track medication adherence. She said that the combination of technological maturity, consumer eagerness to use apps and devices, and physician willingness to work with the data (as gleaned from physician and patient surveys conducted for the report) all point to home health care as a major trend. The survey found that a third of consumers said they would use a home urinalysis device and more than half of physicians said they would use data from such a device to prescribe medication or decide whether a patient should be seen.
PwC's second, related trend was that medical app and device members would have to continue to grapple with whether or not they should secure 510(k) clearance from the FDA.
"In some instances, regulatory approval could provide the competitive edge to certain players entering into this market, especially as you think about how crowded this market is getting," Connolly said. "On the other hand, going through a regulatory process might slow down the innovation of products as they iterate and go through version one, two, three, four."
She said they anticipate seeing entrepreneurs partnering with more established companies that have more experience going through the approval process.
Third, PwC had some interesting predictions about patients' concerns about privacy. They asked consumers which was more important to them, privacy or convenience and found that the answer (unsurprisingly) differed for different types of data: 73 percent rated the privacy of their medical records as more important than convenience of access, but for data about diet and exercise, about 60 percent said convenience of access was more important than privacy.
Ben Isgur, director of PwC’s Health Research Institute, added that hospitals are worrying not just about internal security threats in 2015, like a laptop left on a bus, but external threats from hackers as well.
PwC identified its fourth trend as an increased focus on high cost patients, particularly dual-eligibles, who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare. Isgur pointed out that mobile health and telehealth are two of the ways the disproportionate costs of that group can be addressed.
Another way those costs can be addressed was also the number eight trend of the year ahead, according to PwC -- so-called "physician extenders". PwC predicts that an increasing amount of care is going to be provided by non-physician providers like nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants, not just in hospitals but in urgent care centers and retail clinics. Technology will also play a role in keeping a patient's primary care provider up to date on the patient's health records, even if the patient is going elsewhere for treatment.
Finally, PwC identified millennials as major drivers of change and disruption in healthcare, both as developers of new companies and technology and as a large new insured population, that will demand the healthcare system offer them convenient mobile and digital tools.
PwC also asked consumers what they based their healthcare provider decisions on, and found that cost was still the number one driver, named by 82 percent. A high quality rating from other consumers came in second, with ratings by government agencies in a distant third.