With the start of the new year, we wanted to take a look at some emerging healthcare trends that appear to be taking hold.  Under the Obama administration, the American healthcare landscape has seen dramatic new legislation and trends in how treatment is administered, paid for and even prevented. New interoperability among providers continues to empower physicians, while electronic patient records and personal technologies are encouraging patients to become more engaged in managing their health.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the continued push for value-based healthcare coupled with maturing digital technologies and consumer trends are leading to changes within the industry. Here are some of the things to expect in 2016.

Affordability and access continue to improve
Health Affair reported that the Affordable Care Act has been effective in increasing the number of people who can afford healthcare, as well has have a means of seeking treatment. Having said that, 2015 still saw a large number of people without access to healthcare, particularly among low-income adults.

The ACA will continue to increase the number of insured Americans.The ACA will continue to increase the number of insured Americans.

In 2016, however, new ACA mandates will increase the proliferation of care. The Motley Fool, an investment website, stated that required coverage rates among employers will jump in the coming year, as will non-compliance penalties, including for the ACA’s individual mandate clause. Premiums are also set to rise in the coming year, but according to the Motley Fool, government subsidies will off-set these changes for a large majority of people, keeping Obamacare affordable.

What that means for most patients who do not currently have insurance is that there will be even more ways and incentives to get coverage, which also serve to improve access as well.

Personal health technology
Wearable devices and remote monitoring have helped Americans become more interested and involved in their own health, and, according to Forbes, 2016 will see this trend take a new turn.

“2016 will see the emergence of horizontal innovations.”

Forbes stated that these technologies and new health-based smartphone apps are driving the demand for improved connectivity among health professionals and the IT community, and predicted that 2016 will see the emergence of horizontal innovations and increased competition in the field as more and more businesses seek to develop similar ideas.

PWC reported that 60 percent of Americans would be willing to have a video consultation with a physician, and 58 percent of clinicians would prefer to have a portion of their care provided digitally. These sentiments are an indication of an industry ready to make a change. As remote technologies improve and become more prolific, providers are re-thinking traditional expectations for how healthcare operates.

Continued growth in digital care
Tech-savvy patients and new connected devices aren’t just giving patients the means of tracking heart rates or remotely consulting with their physician. Through the use of electronic patient records, PWC reported that patients can manage their health in new ways, and providers have the ability to analyze data like never before.

In the coming year, digital solutions will only grow in scope, which will not only force hospitals to become better equipped, but will drive the technology sector to provide better products with intuitive interfaces and data interoperability. Better connectivity standards is important for battling chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, and at the same time can give doctors and patients the means of collaborating on preventative care. This can ease the number of people seeking treatment, lowering costs and stress at hospitals and clinics.

Forbes reported that digital health will increasingly become a pillar of how healthcare is handled in the U.S., and care providers and other industry players will continue to integrate IT solutions into their standard practices.

Cyber security concerns
Because the use of the Internet and computer-based health records will only continue to increase in 2016, another major trend in healthcare will be cyber security and the protection of patient records. PWC found that American adults are already worried about the possibility of security concerns , which will drive demand for the safest and most secure networks possible.

According to PWC, almost 40 percent of people would reconsider or leave a health organization that has been hacked, and over 50 percent would avoid connected medical devices because of data breaches.

Aside from keeping health records confidential, protecting electronic payments is another big concern associated with improved digital solutions in healthcare. Providers and their IT partners will continue to look for the best, most advanced devices to maximize the quality of care patients receive, but they will also be forced to ensure that connectivity doesn’t compromise patient confidentiality.

Changing cost of drugs
While many changes in healthcare in the coming year figure to be positive, 2016 may see an increase in the price of prescription drugs. PWC reported that as a result of high-deductible plans and the threat of future regulation from the government may force drug manufacturers to tinker with prices. At the same time, mergers like the one between Allegran and Pfizer may severely change the market for a number of medications, according to Market Realist.

As providers continue to look for value-based payment models, however, drug companies may not be able to dictate prices as they have in the past. PWC stated that insurance companies and payment professionals will look to keep things affordable in the face of any major changes.