This year was monumental for healthcare transparency, as consumers, providers and plans increasingly realized that opacity hurts the entire ecosystem. From hearings in the Senate Finance Committee to mainstream media coverage, awareness of the lack of transparency in the cost and quality of healthcare skyrocketed in 2013. Likewise, the release of CMS data revealed the enormous variation in charges for medical procedures.
Now 2014 is poised to be a landmark year for transparency, as cloud, mobile, healthcare analytics and technology create new possibilities for better medical intelligence, benefits design and care.
Here are some trends to watch for in the New Year:
- CFOs get serious about healthcare spending-A recent Bank of America survey of CFOs found that 58% of CFOs cite healthcare costs as their chief concern for the third consecutive year. With the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate going into effect in 2015, CFOs are closely monitoring all their options. Look for CFOs to continue to have healthcare top of mind during the run-up to 2015.
- Greater access to health data extends ingenuity-The release of CMS Chargemaster data in 2013 produced various innovations, including new apps and companies created through the RWJF Hospital Price Transparency Challenge. CMS has stated its intent to release new data this year from the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), which will provide valuable insights into physician practice patterns and outcomes.
- High deductible plans continue their popularity gain-The focus on personal accountability continues, as rising medical costs lead employers to test new benefits plans designed to curb unnecessary spending. Currently, 17% of employers only offer a high deductible plan. Though, as PwC forecasts a medical cost trend of 6.5% in 2014, expect more companies to offer high deductible plans as the sole benefits option for employees.
- Technology creates new benefit designs-Beyond high deductible plans, organizations like Wal-Mart and Delhaize are finding new ways to engage their employees to become smarter healthcare consumers. With new Centers of Excellence programs and studies that have quantified the cost savings of reference based pricing initiatives, employers looking to scale and standardize such programs nationally may turn to technology, which must be user-friendly and intuitive to win employee engagement and adoption.
Dena Bravata, MD, MS, is chief medical officer and head of products at Castlight Health.