As 2016 winds to a close and before we welcome in 2017, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the news, advancements, and trends that occurred throughout the year. From major stories about runaway viruses to technological advancements allowing physicians to monitor their patients remotely, it has been a busy year for all of us who are part of the healthcare industry. Let’s review the year that was 2016.
Zika Virus – When the year began, who among us thought that mosquitos would play a recurring role in our news cycle? The mosquito-borne Zika virus dominated the news throughout much of the year as a disease, once confined to Africa and Asia, soon showed up in Latin America and the southern United States. While adults who contract the disease experience mild, flu-like symptoms, the virus is responsible for devastating congenital disabilities in developing fetuses. Zika virus news has tapered off now that the colder winter months have arrived, but this story bears watching once springtime arrives in a few months.
Opioid Crisis – In communities throughout the country, local newspapers were devoting almost daily stories of the heartbreaking opioid crisis. There are few if any cities across our land where local leaders are not working to develop strategies and programs to combat this epidemic. Estimates are that almost 44 people per day are dying from opioid abuse. Those suffering from the addictions are straining resources of first responders and hospitals nationwide.
Data Breaches – The early part of 2016 was met with numerous reports of data breaches at major organizations in all sectors of the healthcare industry. From insurance companies to providers no one was safe. Unfortunately, the problem continued throughout the summer and fall of this year as millions of individuals had their healthcare and personal information hacked from industry servers. While the final results are not in, 2016 is destined to end up as the worst year on record for healthcare information security.
Healthcare Premiums – Supporters of the Affordable Care Act are lauding the fact that the numbers of uninsured individuals are at the lowest levels in history. Critics of the health care law and much of the news throughout the presidential election focused on the spiraling increases in healthcare premiums. With major insurers dropping out of ACA exchanges, consumers are faced with a reduction in choices and premiums that are rising by up to 25% for the most popular plans. This is another story that bears close watching in early 2017 as our lawmakers will be tackling this issue with a decision to try and fix the current law or replace it.
Wearable Technologies – The market for wearable medical devices exploded in 2016 as more Americans turned to the devices as part of their health regimen and providers began relying on them to help monitor patients with chronic and other illnesses. The next level of development in wearable technologies will be an effort to more fully understand the potential of these devices and better ways to utilize the information being provided by them.
Robotic Surgeries – This past year proved to be another bell ringer for advancements in robotic surgeries. No longer just for cinematic effect in major Hollywood movies, robots are being utilized in greater varieties of medical procedures every year. Robotic surgeries are now performed in Upper/Lower GI procedures, hysterectomies, urological procedures, and many others. For now, one of the few challenges to be overcome are the extensive learning curve for surgeons who are being introduced to the technology.
Health IT – As healthcare organizations are focusing their efforts on cost control and increasing efficiencies while achieving better outcomes. Health IT has become a large part of those efforts. Advancements in Electronic Health Records (EHR) adoption are driving the development of technology solutions that allow for the exchange of patient information across all provider settings. Medical care is becoming more team-based and having a seamless workflow where all parties have access to the critical information they need has become a critical part of care delivery and positive outcomes.
We have barely scratched the surface of the top news stories and advancements that we have seen over the previous twelve months. Another big story that will play a major role in the healthcare industry is the recent presidential election. Keep your eyes on this space in the coming months as we examine the proposals of the newly elected President and what that means for the healthcare industry.
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