2016 trends: Hospital execs predict healthcare industry focus areas

More hospital consolidations and a continued shift away from fee-for-service payment models to value-based care are among the trends to watch in 2016, hospital executives said in exclusive interviews with FierceHealthcare.

Those were just two of the predictions healthcare leaders say are in store for the industry this year. Here's a snapshot of trends, hot topics and predictions as the healthcare industry heads into 2016:

Expect more "non merger" hospital consolidations--but also more federal scrutiny of actual mergers

Providers will come together in a range of affiliations/partnerships as part of growth and cost reduction strategies, short of full-on mergers and acquisitions, according to Chris Van Gorder, CEO and president of Scripps Health in San Diego.

Indeed, many hospitals that were former competitors have joined forces without full mergers in 2015 and Van Gorder (pictured right) predicts more organizations will join the trend.

Just this week Baylor Scott & White Health and Tenet Healthcare Corp finalized a "non-merger" merger deal that creates a partnership of five hospitals in north Texas. The venture allows the organizations to retain their leadership teams and governing boards, but the affiliation creates greater patient access to services and the ability for the facilities to better coordinate care.

These consolidations offer community hospitals greater opportunities to better manage population health while maintaining independence. It also may be a better option given the tough stance that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking on planned mergers. Indeed, Van Gorder says he expects the FTC will "get tougher in 2016 and will start to block more hospital mergers in addition to either blocking some of the major payer mergers or asking for major concessions in order to proceed with the merger."

Look for a greater push toward value-based care models

Although many CEOs have been slow to actually proceed with value-based care models, Nicholas Tejeda, CEO of The Hospitals of Providence East Campus in El Paso Texas, expects more hospitals this year to not just transition to but actually implement models of value-based care. He also predicts more physicians will seek hospitals that have effective models to deliver efficient but excellent clinical care.

"Hopefully, hospitals have already assessed key topics, such as clinical service capabilities, organizational structure, operational competencies, relationships with post-acute providers and other facets of value-based care delivery, " says Tejeda (pictured left).

"With such an assessment in hand, it will be time for the organizations to execute their plans."

Plan to refocus on integrated plans for emergency preparedness

A. Alex Jahangir, M.D., medical director at Vanderbilt University's Center for Trauma, Burn and Emergency Surgery, told FierceHealthcare that he expects more healthcare systems to focus on emergency preparedness and readiness in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.

Jahangir tells FierceHealthcare that although funding increased for these initiatives after 9/11, attention and spending has dropped over the last decade, as evidence by how the government and nation's hospitals scrambled to respond to the Ebola outbreak in 2014. 

But in light of recent terrorist attacks in Paris and California, as well as the Ebola outbreak, he said that the healthcare industry must lead the development and readiness for a massive response that encompasses the region and community instead of plans confined within the walls of individual hospitals.

"This truly integrated response system is critical for success in minimizing mortality and morbidity in the event of a crisis," he told FierceHealthcare.

Keep these 2016 trends top-of-mind.

Healthcare leaders should also expect continued growth of retail health and it will become a significant part of the ambulatory healthcare market, Van Groder says. More point of care testing and devices will be tied to that growth, he adds.

He also predicts a backlash from employers and consumers over healthcare costs, which are projected to hit 20 percent in 2016. But he also expects state and federal governments to respond to the skyrocketing rate of prescription drug spending.

Many of the changes Van Gorder mentions--as well as a greater push for true healthcare innovation--will be driven by consumers, says David Burik, managing director of Navigant Healthcare. The consumers, who used to be beneficiaries, will demand changes because they're now paying more for these services as a result of high deductibles. Hospitals must respond, he says.

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