Three private sector trends that'll change healthcare

There are no shortage of opinions on the likely impact of the healthcare legislation.

There are no shortage of opinions on the likely impact of the healthcare legislation.

But what private sector trends have the potential to transform healthcare? Professionals in healthcare communications and marketing should be preparing for private sector trends that are sure to be transformative.

  • Food manufacturers and restaurants are working to get consumers to do what they can't seem to do on their own -- eat healthier. Mega-giant food manufacturers such as PepsiCo and Kraft have recently announced plans to reduce sodium. While in part prompted by regulatory threats, I'm betting demand for healthier formulations has been confirmed through consumer testing. The industry has learned a lot since the New Coke debacle of 25 years ago and it's no secret that many consumers want help being healthier.
  • The days of an individual physician hanging out a shingle and practicing medicine are likely a thing of the past. Small practices just can't afford the technology that's now required for patient care. Providers also want the negotiating clout with insurers that comes from affiliation with a larger group or system. So expect to see more acquisitions of physician groups and a growing regionalization of healthcare systems. There may also be vertical integration with payers and providers. Trouble is, as one academic health system leader recently told me, our system is built on the Mom-and-Pop mentality and this approach doesn't scale well in the Wal-Mart era of healthcare.
  • We could be on the verge of a truly special era of medical innovation. Stem cell research, biomarkers, and personalized medicine hold tremendous potential. Such innovations will move forward with or without stimulus spending or new requirements for health IT. Patients will continue to band together and exert influence through online advocacy groups to convince providers and payers to adopt new therapies and improve service.

So while there's a lot of noise about reform, don't overlook the market-driven forces that are also important factors in our evolving healthcare system.

Karen Albritton is president of Capstrat.

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