In its report of the top issues in health care for 2012, PwC cites data security and privacy as well as the growth of social media as areas to watch.
Social media, privacy and
security, and health insurance exchanges (HIXs) will be among the top issues in
health care in 2012, according to a report by consulting firm PwC's Health
In the report, "Top
Health Industry Issues of 2012: Connecting in Uncertainty," PwC suggests
that more people are using social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn and
Twitter to connect with people to learn more about chronic diseases.
"We believe social
media is going to continue to grow, particularly as more people with chronic
diseases begin to use the social media channels to be informed about care
options to connect with health care organizations," Lindsey Jarrell,
principal and co-leader of the electronic health record (EHR) practice at PwC,
"And it's going to
play an important role in one aspect of how they manage their care
In a 2011 report, the Pew
Internet & American Life Project also found that online posts about
specific problems or symptoms, called "feedback
," motivate Internet users to track their health conditions.
Social media will be an
important tool for patient education, Jarrell added.
"We see organizations
utilizing social media for patient education, for creating a feeling of
connectedness for their patients-simple things like announcements and getting
real-time feedback though social media outlets based on patient care
Companies also use social
media to keep the public posted on special health care bulletins, such as flu
season and allergy counts, Jarrell said.
Meanwhile, concerns about
data privacy and security will affect patients' choices of hospitals, according
to the report.
"As more data is
collected and shared within and across organizations, the efforts to secure the
data and ensure patient privacy will become increasingly complicated,"
Of consumers surveyed, 60
percent were comfortable with their personal health information being shared
among providers if it would bring greater collaboration in care.
Another area of focus will
be health informatics, in which health professionals collect, manage or store
data so that it can it bring about positive health outcomes, according to
PwC cites the example of
using IBM Watson data analytics capabilities
to improve doctors' abilities
to boost quality of care.
With the focus on being
accountable for patient outcomes rather than individual patient visits, physicians
will concentrate on the timely capturing of data in a way that will bring
improved health outcomes, Jarrell explained.
Still, in 2012 the Supreme
Court will hear a challenge to the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and
Affordable Care Act
(PPACA), which calls for doctors to be reimbursed for
health outcomes rather than per visit.
As far as adding new health
care IT workers, colleges and universities will build health care IT programs
at a rapid pace, Jarrell predicted.
"I see the development
of a lot of new medical informatics programs, and this is really helping
educate the new workforce coming into the industry," Jarrell said.
Although most health
insurance exchanges are currently geared toward small businesses, states will
be introducing more online insurance-shopping tools for consumers, PwC reports.
While vendors such as Adobe,
Microsoft and Oracle
have introduced platforms to support HIXs, getting the technology operational
to support these exchanges could be problematic, according to the PwC report, which
was released Nov. 16.
with the exchanges could pose challenges, especially as most states have yet to
announce their platforms or technology requirements," the PwC report states.