2020 over the image of a doctor (Credit: Allison Bell/ALM)

With 2020 upon us there’s a lot trending on the health care delivery and finance horizon. Pressure is building across markets and among competitors as well as inside health care companies in terms of efficiency and scalability challenges. And of course, there’s the continued evolution of the health care consumerism movement.

(Related: Medicare Advantage Growth Faces New Hurdles)

Even if you washed your hands of health insurance in 2013, you may find some of these factors will spill over into the life insurance or retirement planning markets, or even into your own life.

If you’re still selling health insurance, here are some of the issues likely to get attention and more importantly, impact your business in 2020.

1. Market Pressure

From a marketplace perspective, the run-up to the 2020 election will keep health care front and center in the political arena and in the media. From Medicare for All to drug price scrutiny to uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act, expect robust debate. Remember, in the 2018 mid-term elections over 40% of voters said health care was the top issue facing the country far ahead of immigration and the economy. Three other hot-button issues will shape the 2020 health care landscape:

  • Success of digital and virtual health will be closely tied to convenience, experiences, and outcomes (v. the behind-the-scenes technology “wow” factor).
  • Care models that fully integrate value-based payment, primary care, social determinants, mixed sites of care, and mental health will see significant growth.
  • Mergers and acquisitions will continue to shake up payers, providers, pharma and big box retailers. Expect to see at least three to five big health care announcements.

2. Operating Pressure

As political infighting and turf wars continue to shape the C-suite battlefield, one thing to watch is the shelf life of today’s “what have you done for me lately” chief marketing officer. According to Spencer Stuart, the average length of CMO tenure is 43 months. Going forward, expect to see the CMO job evolve at a fast pace, adding responsibilities such as strategy, customer experience and sales.

Elsewhere inside health care delivery and health insurance organizations, these areas of focus will dominate:

  • Breaking down silos and uniting fiefdoms to achieve operating agility and efficiencies will finally get the attention it deserves.
  • Tighter alignment between marketing (brand, direct and content) and sales will emerge as pressure on profitable revenue growth intensifies.
  • After years of “talking the talk” about customer experience, 2020 will be the year to “walk the walk,” with companies bringing customer centricity to life across each phase of an individual’s health care journey.

3. Consumer Pressure

If there’s anything driving the health care industry in 2020, it’s consumers. Whether the consumers are Millennials, GenXers or Boomers, they will not engage with health care the way it is now. They are demanding change.

As we enter 2020:

  • The typical family’s financial health care burden is growing at a rate that far outpaces growth in the typical family’s wages.
  • Cost has 25% of Americans postponing or delaying treatment for serious medical conditions.

Health care has become a jumble of medical, financial and lifestyle transactions surrounded by partisan political noise. At every step along the customer journey there’s friction, complexity and frustration. All while health care consumers grapple with mind-numbing personal health decisions and a search for value.

Winning health care brands will be inseparable from their ability to empower the customer and build a relationship of trust. They will reach and connect with every customer, interacting with customers on their terms, at the most appropriate touchpoint, with actionable content, and through communication channels they prefer. The endgame: Give customers what they want, by making health care simple, being there when they need you, communicating honestly, showing empathy, and doing the right thing for their health care.

2020 Action

In tumultuous, transformative times even the most risk-adverse business leaders must adopt new thinking, new strategies and new structures — all of them human centric, data driven, and strategically aligned with core business objectives.

For health care companies in 2020 relevance is not optional. Structuring a winning action plan takes candid analysis of competitive advantages and functional gaps compared to marketplace dynamics, unbiased assessment operational capabilities, and deep understanding of customer “wants and needs.” Optimize the advantages, neutralize the gaps, and bring to life a brand narrative only you can own, deliver and grow in your markets. Be differentiated and be memorable.

As we leave one decade and begin another we’re once again reminded of Yogi Berra’s thoughts on forecasting: “Predicting is difficult, especially when it’s about the future.”

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Lindsay Resnick

Lindsay R. Resnick, MHA, is executive vice president of Wunderman Thompson Health. He tweets at @ResnickLR.