How Best to Fix the US Healthcare System? For Physicians, It Starts with Affordability and Access, Says InCrowd Data

Concerns for affordable healthcare and access escalate, some significantly;
80% believe ACA will be defunded though 74% say it will remain in place in 2020

WATERTOWN MA February 27, 2020—As healthcare reform dominates political discourse, those who know the US healthcare market perhaps best—US physicians—reported significantly higher concerns for healthcare affordability and access in 2020 than they did in 2019. Data was sourced by InCrowd’s proprietary Crowd of physicians. InCrowd is the pioneer of real-time, high-quality primary market intelligence for the life science industry, and this data represents its fifth annual predictions report, reflecting the views of healthcare professionals (HCPs) on critical US healthcare issues.

“Over half of respondents ranked affordable therapies and wider access as the leading priorities they’d like to see addressed in 2020, a statistically significant increase from 2019,” said Daniel S. Fitzgerald, CEO and president of InCrowd. “What’s interesting about this year’s data is that we’re seeing less emphasis on the importance of bringing innovative, new therapies to market faster, often too costly and out of reach for patients, with only one in five prioritizing it, versus expanding affordability, which was nearly a unanimous top priority for respondents.”

The data showed deep cynicism over systemic change:

  • Nearly 30% of physicians predict rising drug prices in 2020, which is the highest percentage recorded since InCrowd’s initial 2016 survey.
  • Concerns over profit-driven behaviors of the pharmaceutical industry remained, with 32% in 2020, up from 21% in 2019, saying the pharmaceutical industry should stop unnecessary price increases.
  • Fifty-five percent of respondents advocated for pharma companies to spend less money on marketing, sales, and direct to consumer (DTC) advertising to help reduce costs.
  • I think we will continue to see new, promising drugs emerge but will be financially out of reach for patients. Or patients will be initially able to afford them with discounts, but those will then become unavailable and then patients will be forced to switch.” Noted a specialist from Missouri.
  • Only 4% could envision greater transparency in pricing in the coming year.
  • More transparency about cost and more efforts to lower them.” Urged a specialist from Massachusetts.
  • The majority of respondents predict no change at all occurring in US healthcare in 2020.

As noted, only 22% of respondents in 2020 thought bringing innovative new therapies to market faster was important this year, compared with expanding affordability (96%) and improving wider access to available therapies (52%).

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 80% of respondents believe it will continue to be defunded, although 74% believe it will remain despite recent rulings—a statistically significant jump from the 60% level reported in 2019. The preexisting conditions coverage provision likely will remain in place, according to 78% of respondents. Many verbalized fears for the millions of Americans who would be left without coverage without the ACA. However, many others reported poor experiences with the ACA and believed the impact of eradication will be minimal.

“People like the ACA now. Repeal of protections for pre-existing conditions is political suicide. Medicare for all is not that popular across the spectrum when people learn it means enormous tax increases and losing current health insurance coverage. Technology can help improve access but unlikely to improve quality of care.” Observed a specialist from California.

Other findings include:

  • Only 18% expect universal healthcare to materialize in 2020.Many respondents vocalized support for such a model while suggesting that a gradual roll-out that builds on an existing system (i.e. Medicaid) would allow for both public and private options to co-exist, and would provide physicians with adequate reimbursement.
  • Two-thirds see opioid addictions stabilizing or declining. Respondents advocated for better mental health programs, removal of physician satisfaction surveys, and the proliferation of alternative medicines to further address the epidemic.
  • Two-thirds also said patient privacy concerns will rise as 2020 will bring growing use of technology in medicine, with many physicians citing that data issues are inevitable.
  • “I see a growing consensus that the healthcare security of the population is important. The near 100% penetrance of EMR and the increasing importance of big data will improve healthcare development, targeting of therapy and improved utilization of resources in general. However, protection of patient privacy will suffer in this new environment.” A specialist from Massachusetts noted.

InCrowd’s annual healthcare industry report included n=201 US physicians, both generalists and specialists, who responded to a 6-question MicroSurvey between December 30, 2019 through January 2, 2020.