6 Healthcare Industry Trends to Watch in 2023 and Beyond
The healthcare industry accounts for about 20% of U.S. GDP. It takes a lesser share in most other countries, but it’s a significant contributor to the global economy regardless. Everyone needs healthcare, after all.
The healthcare industry also happens to be incredibly complex and very localized. It’s not a global industry in the same way that maritime shipping or oil and gas extraction are. Rather, healthcare is really a collection of national industries that do similar things but operate in very different ways.
This is one reason why predicting the future of healthcare is so difficult. All we can do is look to emerging trends and try to play out how they’ll affect national and perhaps regional health economies, while keeping an eye on promising technologies that could revolutionize healthcare delivery and outcomes on a global scale.
With that in mind, here are six healthcare industry trends to watch in 2023 and beyond.
1. Larger Healthcare Networks (That Still Focus on Personalized Care)
Healthcare industry consolidation has been a trend (and a concern for patient advocates) for many years in the Western world. It’s picking up the pace in other markets as well, including in countries that formerly had quite fragmented healthcare systems.
Done correctly, this is a good thing for both patients and providers. Healthcare networks like WestBridge Capital-backed Vasan Healthcare, in India, have expanded access to affordable specialty care while retaining the ability to deliver hands-on, personalized service. This needle isn’t always easy to thread, and those that unlock the formula will do well in the years to come.
2. More Direct-to-Consumer Medicine
The healthcare industry isn’t consolidating in a straight line. In fact, in many parts of the world, business pressures and government regulation are pushing providers into the “direct primary care” market. Its appeal is great for providers in countries with fragmented private insurance markets, where accepting new payers often isn’t worth the time needed to learn their billing and reimbursement processes. Some direct primary care providers do accept insurance, but many don’t, opting for a flat-fee model instead.
Direct-to-consumer medicine is flourishing in other areas as well, including international pharmaceutical sales (such as between the more expensive United States and more affordable Canada) and telemedicine (more on that in a moment).
3. Automation in Medical Coding and Billing
Medical coding and billing are so complicated in some private insurance markets that they support armies of support personnel earning middle-class wages. There are many reasons why these processes shouldn’t be so complicated (or expensive) and it seems that automation may finally be making its mark on the space.
In the coming years, it seems likely that many medical coding and billing jobs will be replaced by “smart,” highly accurate AI systems that push humans into quality assurance-type roles. Importantly, this trend seems likely to accelerate even in the absence of regulation simplifying medical coding and billing.
4. Expanded Telemedicine Services
Telemedicine access grew by leaps and bounds during the pandemic as many outpatient clinics suspended in-person consultations and patients got more cautious about in-person activity. Most providers have resumed normal service by now, but telemedicine adoption remains elevated far above prepandemic levels and seems unlikely to regress much further.
This “preference trend” aligns with technological trends: toward lower-latency, higher-resolution videoconferencing and iterative improvements in diagnostic technology, for example. This means telemedicine should play an ever greater role in care delivery moving forward.
5. Artificial Intelligence in Diagnostics and Care Planning
AI diagnostic tools are already better at spotting certain maladies, like skin cancer, than human doctors. Increasingly, AI is supporting care management and planning decisions as well. And it’s aiding in other aspects of the medical value chain, including drug discovery. There’s so much happening in the space that it’s difficult to rank all the developments — but it’s all combining to dramatically alter the healthcare industry.
6. Expanded Minimally Invasive Surgical Options
Like AI diagnostics, machine-assisted surgery has been a thing for many years, but the state of the art is improving at an impressive clip. The most promising outcome of this ongoing development is the expansion of minimally invasive surgical procedures (and their replacement of older, riskier, more invasive techniques). As with AI, it’s difficult to know exactly where this takes us, even as the benefits seem abundantly clear.
What’s Next for Healthcare?
If anyone tells you they know what the healthcare industry will look like in 10 years, ask them how. Unless they’ve invented a crystal ball, which would be quite useful for healthcare providers, they can only make educated guesses about this industry’s future.
That shouldn’t stop them from trying. Healthcare accounts for a big portion of global economic output, and people everywhere benefit when it works better. The more ideas and innovations we see in this space, the brighter the future looks for us all.