In showdowns of the final eight players, one thing is certain: Our Selection Committee consistently favors the most urgent demands of the healthcare industry. With multiple white-hot issues to contend with, healthcare organizations are having to play zone defense to stay in the game. Trends with a longer-term focus are falling hard to their short-term opponents. 

“Who’s going to be yelling the loudest in 2023?” is the way one Committee Member described choosing winners in the next round. 

Another Committee Member encouraged fellow members to gravitate toward those trends that impact the entire provider-payer-patient ecosystem more broadly, rather than trends that more deeply impact a smaller group of stakeholders.

Explore the interactive bracket and watch the tournament unfold weekly on our LinkedIn page, where you can join the discussion too!

Let’s take a look at the eight trends that made it to Round 3 and see who’s moving on to the Top Four as representatives of their regions.

Healthcare Economy Trends

Cost Cutting Strategies Upsets Labor & Workforce Shortages

What a matchup! As an indicator of the economic urgency flowing in and around healthcare, Cost Cutting Strategies (4) dethrones last year’s tournament champion, Labor & Workforce Shortages (2) and takes the regional title in a 4-1 win, much to the chagrin of one Committee Member. 

While all agreed it was a tough competition, most Committee members see Cost Cutting as the only way to get back to healthy margins and ensure long term sustainability. And while the labor challenges are just as heavy, what’s different this year is the absence of government money to smooth over the shortfalls, which obligates healthcare organizations to make hard cuts. 

Many health systems are experiencing the “double whammy” of labor and supply chain costs and underperforming investment portfolio, so that’s an added dynamic where  cost cutting is the only option.

Purchasers Trends

Affordability Narrowly Defeats Pharmacy and Drug Spending 

Both coming into this game with strong wins in Round 2, Affordability (2) claims the Purchasers regional title in a 3-2 win, sending Pharmacy and Drug Spending (4) home after a strong tournament showing. 

Those voting for Pharmacy and Drug Spending preferred it as an actionable item, something “with more meat to it” and a trend that industry leaders can really get behind, versus the notion of Affordability as being too generic and nebulous. 

Maybe we are moving toward a day of reckoning.”

One Committee Member pointed out that with Affordability and Cost Cutting now in the Top Four, this signals that “we are not going to be able to go after one thing in healthcare, and that maybe we are moving toward a day of reckoning, a full-scale reset of healthcare over the next 10-20 years.” Another said that we’ve been saying for 20-30 years that the economic models of healthcare are unsustainable, and very possibly, we have arrived.

Clinical & Business Model Trends

Primary Care Transformation Squeaks Past Vertical Integration

Many Committee Members wanted both to advance, but what pushed Primary Care Transformation (4) across the finish line in a 3-2 win is the notion that time is of the essence for primary care, which is a huge bottleneck for the whole system. Additionally, transforming primary care is critical for Vertical Integration (2) to succeed.

Health systems are making real decisions about going forward with value-based care, and doing so requires reform in the primary care arena. One Committee Member made a strong prediction that there would be more Primary Care Transformation activity than Vertical Integration activity in 2023, a proclamation that sealed the win. 

Digital Tools & Technology Trends

Cybersecurity Upsets Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

In another example of today’s needs outweighing tomorrow’s promises, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (1) falls to the underdog Cybersecurity (6), which fends off the last top-seeded team still alive in the tournament in a 4-1 win. 

The sole defender for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning pointed to the overwhelming headlines and advancements that are moving the dialogue into areas of healthcare that we didn’t see coming just a few years ago. How will ChatGPT, Glass Health and other recent developments affect healthcare next year? This trend may be out of the tournament, but it most definitely will be back.

What trend will take the win?

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This is commentary from our 2023 March Healthcare Classic. Explore this year’s interactive bracket to see the most impactful healthcare trends face off.