2018 Health Trends

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Wellness Programs

Strategies for lowering medical costs through preventive health management continued to gain momentum in 2018. Wellness programs represent one of the more successful components of this approach. Wellness programs, which are often featured with high deductible health plans and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), work by helping participants make better lifestyle choices to improve their health. They typically start with an initial health screening followed by offering specific programs to address identified health problems. These programs range from exercise and weight-loss regimens to smoking prevention and diabetes management programs, among others. By supporting healthier lifestyles, employers hoped their employees would experience fewer medical problems and, hence, incur lower medical costs. In addition, fewer sick days translated into more productivity. To encourage enrollment in company wellness programs, employers often reward employees with cash, discounts on products and services, gym memberships and other types of incentives. However, research has found that offering a comprehensive program produces the highest participation rates. With more employers and employees recognizing the benefits of wellness programs, we saw that participation continued to grow throughout 2018.


Health Reimbursement Arrangements

Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) were also gaining popularity over the past few years. These tax-advantaged benefit plans allow employees to use an employer-funded account to pay for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. In addition to traditional HRAs, there are qualified small business employer HRAs (QSEHRAs). In December 2016, the Cures Act was signed into law which allows small business employers to establish HRAs for their workforce; unlike traditional HRAs, QSEHRAS can be used to pay for non-group plan health insurance premiums, including plans purchased on healthcare exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. To qualify, employers must not offer a group health plan and employ fewer than 50 full-time employees.


Technology and Digital Healthcare

Of the three healthcare trends, the increasing use of digital technology may have had the most impact. For managed data and improved medical care delivery, we looked for the following in 2018:

The Maturation of Empathetic Health Interfaces

The ongoing development of healthcare technologies that are more empathetic and human-like had tremendous potential to benefit mental health, elder care, and other areas. Already, responsive interfaces have been introduced that patients are beginning to trust and rely on.

Increased Use of Blockchain Solutions

Blockchain solutions enable the highly secure, immutable (write once, read-only) storage of sensitive data. It also supports application layers built on top of it, such as anti-counterfeiting and other health data security needs.




More Mergers and Acquisition Activity

Over the next 10 years, $17 billion worth of patents for the big blockbuster drugs will expire. Big companies need to find new ways to make up losses. For this reason, we’re likely to see big companies like Pfizer purchase smaller pharmaceutical companies that already have profitable drugs in the pipeline. The big companies can help accelerate the growth of these smaller players through marketing, rebranding, production and distribution efficiencies, and label expansions.


Health Care Trends Toward Technical Breakthroughs

Thanks to some mind-blowing developments in molecular engineering and gene editing, there was a whole new world of pharmaceuticals ready to explode. Specifically, Chimeric Antigenic Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) and CRISPR-CAS9 gene editing technologies used to fight cancers and other debilitating diseases. Blockchain technology entering the health care realm was another interesting point to watch for its unique ability to put patients in control of their data.

Increase In Generics

As patents expired, we saw more generics than ever before. There was strong pressure from society and politicians to control the exorbitant cost of drugs. There also was strong pressure from pharmaceutical lobbyists wishing to protect their interests. In the coming years, we're likely to see the FDA create more favorable policies toward generics. This will mean more generics will get approved and prices will come down accordingly.


Growth In Asian Markets

Asia in 2018 was experiencing rapid growth in most of its' areas. It needed similar pharmaceutical and medical device capabilities to those of the West in order to serve their market. China accounted for a quarter of the global health care market, and the number only continued to rise. Health insurance, in particular, was a completely untapped and undeveloped market. These are just a few of the health care trends we saw throughout 2018. One thing is certain as the industry continues to grow, the change will be the norm. These health care trends were just the tip of the iceberg in an industry where opportunities are on the rise.