Looking back on 2020 and Looking Ahead to 2021

We live in perhaps the most dynamic time in the history of modern healthcare, a statement that should come as little surprise to anyone observing or interacting with the industry around us. As 2020 nears its end, welcomed by many after such a harrowing year, the opportunity to take stock in healthcare progress may be worth a look in the rear view before we drive forward.

For some time now, the shift from fee-for-volume care to fee-for-value care has been upon us, which has been both vexing for some and a boon for others. Accompanying that shift, or at least in the wake of it, a handful of trends have reached a fever pitch this past year:

  • Pandemic propulsion – A recent “Insights” report from Xtelligent Healthcare Media found that 43% of healthcare leaders (363 healthcare leaders surveyed) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that the Covid-19 pandemic would propel the industry away from fee-for-service towards value-based care.
  • Private equity surge – Consolidation strategies and “platform” investments led by private equity infused innovation and scale to disruptive healthcare delivery models, as indicated by this year’s Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) of One Medical (including Alphabet and J.P. Morgan backing) and Oak Street Health (including General Atlantic and Humana backing), both of which breathe fresh air into the primary care space.
  • Technology proliferation – Digitization of patient information creates the promise of new and distinctive technology uses, particularly in the face of the pandemic, where telehealth and virtual health companies capitalized on an industry pain point to ease some of the care burden, as indicated by the $18.5B merger of Livongo (focused on chronic conditions) and Teladoc (deep telemedicine capabilities).
  • New relationships – Industry consolidation is one thing, but non-traditional healthcare constituents joining hands to solve for the most basic of healthcare needs was on full display this year, just ask Walgreen’s about its $1B partnership with VillageMD to build at least 500 primary care clinics over the next five years, allowing for the local pharmacist and family doctor to partner.
  • Consumer demand – Consumer choice increasingly demanded that developing and measuring more meaningful programs encourages healthier behaviors/outcomes, particularly when barriers to healthcare access are removed, as highlighted by Walmart’s aggressive move into healthcare in opening the first several (200 planned) of its Walmart Care Clinics to administer everything from primary care to counseling, adjacent to grocery, clothes and automotive shopping.

Laying the foundation now for a very different 2021, hopefully in a world preparing to move beyond a once-a-century pandemic, unifying voices and capabilities will be needed to address the clamoring for the whole person to be seen through the eyes of healthcare evolution, whether a patient, a member, a beneficiary, or a consumer. This merits embracing: the prevention techniques that now must prevail; a digital experience to meet the person where they are in their healthcare journey; investments requisite in a ‘systemness’ approach to care that cuts across private and public sector lines; community line of sight into sustainable solutions for social/economic inequities and disparities; and, the policy interventions needing sound thinking and judgment. We should all be ready for the change to come; we certainly deserve it.

Guest blog provided by Josh Berlin

CEO, Rule of Three, LLC