Illustration of a person looking through binoculars towards 2023.

Like demand drives supply, how people engage with healthcare drives its content.

That’s why Chris Bevolo’s new book “Joe Public 2030: Five Potent Predictions Reshaping How Consumers Engage Healthcare” has us so intrigued.

In the book, Bevolo shares five predictions about how people will be using healthcare by the year 2030. Some predictions, like using blockchain technology to securely connect patient health data, are exciting and promising, while others, like a widening gap in access to care, are downright dire.

No matter what the future holds, it’s our job as healthcare communicators to bear witness and help consumers navigate the changing landscape.

Read on to understand Bevolo’s five predictions, how he believes each will shape how people use healthcare in the future, and what we believe each could mean for the future of healthcare content.

5 potent predictions reshaping healthcare

1. The Copernican Consumer

Prediction: If you’ve heard of the mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus, you probably know he’s famous for proposing that the earth revolves around the sun. Similarly, Bevolo predicts that by the year 2030, consumers will become the centers of their own health universe more than ever before. This will be due to advances in things like:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) that analyzes large amounts of data to identify and predict patterns, among other uses.
  • Blockchain technology that helps make health data more secure, prevents drug counterfeiting and creates seamless supply chain management for medical supplies and medications.
  • Gene sequencing that allows for more personalized medical treatment.
  • Telehealth and tests that enable diagnosis and treatment at home.
  • Wearable sensors that attach to the skin and monitor health stats.

What this could mean for consumers’ future engagement with healthcare: Although the terms patient-centricity and consumer-centricity aren’t new, they’ve always referred to creating a personalized healthcare experience for patients when they come to a hospital or health center for care. Now, with this prediction, patient-centricity still means creating a personalized healthcare experience for the patient, but it’s creating that experience where the patient is — namely, at home.

If this prediction comes true, people will get most of their care where they are, whether that’s at home, work, the store or online. They’ll monitor everything from their white blood cell count to their mental state with an invisible sensor on their glasses or watch, and they’ll treat conditions like Crohn’s disease with a customized drug combination designed to fit their unique genetic makeup.

In addition, they’ll be less dependent on a primary care doctor and spend more time with a health coach who uses AI and software-driven digital therapeutics to manage their health in real time.

What this could mean for the future of healthcare content: Under the Copernican Consumer prediction, in less than 10 years, our healthcare — like our entertainment, work and education — will revolve around us. That means, first and foremost, your healthcare content will need to be personalized. It also will need to be holistic in scope and prioritize prevention and wellness.

You’ll also have to use your content to help break down and explain what these technological advances mean for people and demonstrate (through videos, graphics and step-by-step content) how they work.

2. Constricted Consumerism

Prediction: While consumers will be increasingly responsible for their own health in the future, they’ll actually be less empowered in their choices for care, especially in high-cost, acute-care situations, like emergency room visits and intensive care unit stays. This will be due to:

  • An increase in mergers among major players in the healthcare space.
  • Health insurance companies’ crackdown on reimbursements for unscheduled procedures.
  • Ramped-up deductibles and prior authorizations.

What this could mean for consumers’ future engagement with healthcare: If this prediction comes true, companies may no longer offer their employees health insurance due to changes in how health benefits are considered from a tax standpoint. Instead, companies will give employees an allowance they can use to buy health insurance on the marketplace (and there won’t be many choices).

People who buy their plans on the marketplace will have to get all their urgent, primary and diagnostic care — including virtual care — from in-network providers. With a deductible in the neighborhood of $25,000, they’ll also have to pay more out of pocket in most cases.

What this could mean for the future of healthcare content: Even constricted choices are choices, so delivering a great patient experience will still be vital — so, too, will convenience, access and transparency.

According to Bevolo, choice isn’t even what many consumers want. They don’t need eight choices for their hip surgery, just two good ones.

For these reasons, your healthcare content will need to instill confidence and comfort in patients and potential patients. If they only have a few choices, you’ll need to help them see that you’re the one to choose — and, of course, provide all the reasons why.

Consumers are also going to be looking to content to explain the changing healthcare system, especially if companies begin offloading employer-sponsored plans in favor of health insurance allowances.

You’ll need to position your health system as the one people can trust to get clear, honest information.

3. The Funnel Wars

Prediction: More and more, the role of primary care physicians in the United States is diminishing, largely due to a lack of funding. Major government health plans like Medicare and Medicaid have long commanded the biggest fees in the U.S. health system for medical specialties, not primary care.

Still, strengthening primary care is considered a critical public health need, with experts calling high-quality primary care the foundation of a strong healthcare system.

Enter the private sector into this primary care vacuum. The headlines we’ve seen recently are all about Amazon buying primary care company One Medical, CVS Health’s plans to buy Signify Health, Walgreens putting physician clinics in 1,000 stores by 2027, and Dollar General announcing it hired a chief medical officer.

And the list goes on.

According to Bevolo’s prediction, traditional healthcare systems are now going to have to battle it out with these private-sector juggernauts to win patient loyalty and regain control of the top of the funnel.

What this could mean for consumers’ future engagement with healthcare: Pitting private sector names like Amazon against traditional healthcare systems will be quite the battle. While traditional healthcare systems have medical knowledge, expertise and physicians on their side, private companies have consumer-centered culture on theirs. Will it be easier to acquire knowledge or transform a culture? Time will tell.

For his part, Bevolo predicts the funnel wars will go to the private sector. Consumers will no longer have a major relationship (if any relationship at all) with a primary care doctor at a large health system. Instead, they’ll work with a team of providers at Amazon Health, where most of their health needs will be managed. They’ll also only go to a hospital (of which few remain) for serious healthcare needs, like surgery or emergency care.

What this could mean for the future of healthcare content: If the funnel wars are all about a race for the patient relationship, your content had better be, too.

You’ll need to showcase your culture and patient-centered care model, highlight your human interest stories that show you’re not driven entirely by the bottom line, and win at social proof (using reviews and testimonials to authentically tell your strengths and successes). And you’ll have to embrace influencers and brand partnerships more than ever before.

One thing’s for sure: In the funnel wars, only the healthcare systems with strong patient relationships will survive.

4. Rise of Health Sects

Prediction: With the increasing politicization of healthcare, Bevolo predicts we could see the creation of healthcare politics, or primary “schools” of medical thought built around a group of people’s worldviews. For instance, “mainstreamers” may follow traditional healthcare doctrine, while “progressives” may believe in minimal medical intervention coupled with complementary and alternative treatments, and “contrarians” may arise as a sect that denies mainstream medical thought completely.

What this could mean for consumers’ future engagement with healthcare: If Bevolo’s prediction comes true, it will impact every aspect of healthcare. People will choose their doctors, wellness plans and treatment options based completely on their worldview, even to the point of walking out on a provider who recommends a medical treatment they don’t agree with.

What this could mean for the future of healthcare content: With the predicted rise of health sects, tailored content for specific personas will be key.

While you’ve always written healthcare content toward a target demographic or demographics, you’ll need to take personalized messaging to an entirely new level to reach these health sects. And first, of course, you’ll need to determine your own worldviews.

5. Disparity Dystopia

Prediction: The COVID-19 pandemic shone a light on health disparities and inequities of care that have plagued large portions of the population throughout our country’s history. According to Bevolo, these imbalances — especially in access to quality care — will continue to worsen. This will be due, in part, to other challenges, like the growing healthcare affordability crisis, the aging population and climate change, which all have outsized impacts on those who already face health inequities.

Bevolo predicts the “haves” will continue to access expensive medical treatments and services while the “have nots” will face a growing shortage of basic healthcare.

What this could mean for consumers’ future engagement with healthcare: If disparity dystopia plays out, patients will get higher-quality care and faster access to care if they have money. If they don’t, they’ll be victims of this ever-widening health gap. For instance, the technological advances of the Copernican Consumer could miss someone completely if they can’t afford something like an Apple Watch.

What this could mean for the future of healthcare content: As healthcare content marketers, you’ll need to find ways to make healthcare accessible to everyone, and to help everyone, especially those who face inequities, understand how they can access it.

You’ll also need to highlight this divide between “haves” and “have nots” in your messaging so you can help grow awareness. You can do this by debunking myths and dispelling misinformation, establishing yourself as a thought leader to build trust, and using plain language in your messaging to reach all populations, including the underserved ones.

Whether Bevolo’s healthcare predictions come true is yet to be seen. What we already know is they’ve sparked a conversation worth having.

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