What to look for in healthcare in 2013

In this column, Zeno Group's Ame Wadler describes the healthcare trends she expects to take hold in 2013.

In this column, Zeno Group's Ame Wadler describes the healthcare trends she expects to take hold in 2013.  

Despite the fact that the Affordable Care Act will provide healthcare coverage to more people, the world of health will not change radically in 2013.

While stakeholders will operate differently, with consumers playing an even greater role in their care, employers continuing to stave off rising costs and providers preparing for an accountable care model, the challenges of cost, access, and innovation are not new nor are they going away.

However, these concerns take on new significance as stakeholders struggle to slow the tide of chronic disease. Simply put, more people are living longer…sicker. The cost – both economic and psychic-- of a growing population of world “sick” should incite action amongst people in the business of advocating and creating health. We expect a renewed and, even activist, focus on identifying ways to prevent and mitigate chronic, debilitating conditions in areas as diverse as vision health, communicable diseases, and cancer. 

Health business leaders may start these conversations, but they will be rapidly joined by strange bedfellows from other businesses, academia, and the policy community. We also predict a mobilization of Millennials who will have an awakening that if they don't fix things now – they will pay for it in the future. They will be enlightened to the need to radically change the way they engage in health for themselves, their children, and their parents.

Medicine cabinets will expand to be “medicine pantries” stocked with foods and supplements, not just medicines. Nutritional and supplement companies will demand a larger share of voice. Pharmaceutical companies will see these offerings as attractive additions to their portfolio...a win-win as government regulators in the US and abroad put a greater focus on regulation of the category. Nutritional supplement manufacturers have the opportunity to learn from their cousins in the pharmaceutical space.

This gray area of “medicine” demands a “practice agnostic” approach to health communications whereby there is a seamless and active integration of consumer insights, policy know-how and social engagement to enable real progress by 2014.

Ame Wadler is managing director for health at Zeno Group.

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