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Surprise Billing, Digital Experiences Among Top Healthcare Trends

Analysis  |  By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   June 09, 2021

PwC's Health Research Institute has released its annual medical cost trend report, which forecasts a 6.5% medical cost trend in 2022.

Surprise billing is one of the "healthcare trends to watch in 2022," according the new PwC Health Research Institute (HRI) annual medical cost trend report, Behind the Numbers. That's thanks to the No Surprises Act, which will go into effect on January 1, 2022.

Surprise billing is just one of many healthcare cost and spending topics that the report covers. It also predicts medical cost trends— the projected percentage increase in the cost to treat patients from one year to the next, assuming benefits are unchanged—for next year.

HRI forecasts a 6.5% medical cost trend in 2022, which is slightly lower than the 7% medical cost trend in 2021, and slightly higher than it was between 2016 and 2020.

For 2021 and 2022, the medical cost trend is the projected percentage increase over the prior year's spending, with the effects of the pandemic removed from the prior year's spending.

HRI also predicts a return to pre-pandemic baselines for healthcare spending, with some adjustments to account for ongoing effects of the pandemic.

Here are some additional report findings:

  • Healthcare spending by employers in 2020 was lower than expected, largely because patients deferred care during the pandemic.
  • The pandemic accelerated providers' work to improve digital patient experience, through tools like "digital front door" mobile apps, and virtual care and analytics. Patients and clinicians are increasingly expecting these tools.
  • 58% of providers and nurses wanted more tools like apps to help with care coordination.
  • Telehealth dramatically reduces no-show rates for healthcare visits.
  • Patients are visiting more low-cost care settings such as retail clinics and urgent care sites, rather than seeking emergency care.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

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