Increased demand in developing countries, technological advances that lead to personalized medicine, and an influx of aging populations are among the 12 healthcare "megatrends" that dramatically change how the world approaches healthcare and reacts to its "largely unrecognized consequences," according to a special report in the Harvard Business Review.
"You think costs are bad now... Aging populations and technological advances will cause health care costs throughout the world to continue to rise and will have a widespread impact on health care spending, design of national systems, and delivery," the HBR editors write.
Payers' influence over treatment decisions also ranked as a top global trend. "Rising costs around the world will cause the power to decide how to treat patients to shift from health-care professionals to payers, who will assess the added ‘quality-adjusted life years' that a potential treatment offers," they note.
An accompanying blog post by Kaiser Permanente CEO George C. Halvorson distills the trends into three agendas needed to significantly improve care and moderate the increase in the cost of care.
The recently passed U.S. healthcare reform is just the first step toward Halvorson's first recommendation of universal care. Noting the difficulty of improving care for people before they have insurance, he writes, "If we very carefully and skillfully build and implement the new insurance market exchanges mandated by the law, they will give Americans much better choices."
He also calls for better, safer and more affordable care. While our new healthcare bill has been criticized as doing little to control costs, we still don't truly know why we spend twice as much for each unit of care compared to other industrialized countries, he notes.
"As a macro-economic issue, we do need to recognize that fees drive costs and that higher fees are the number one cost difference between the U.S. and every other country," he writes. "We don't need to reduce fees-but we will have absolutely no hope of ever getting to more affordable care in the U.S. if we don't find a way to constrain future increases in fee levels."
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