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Healthcare will take up nearly 20% of the U.S. economy by 2019

Consumers will spend billions on health-related video games and mobile health apps, says PricewaterhouseCoopers

June 8, 2011 02:30 PM ET

Computerworld - Healthcare spending will represent nearly one-fifth of the U.S. gross domestic product by 2019, and much of that money can be attributed to new regulations requiring better information technology and mobile health apps, according to a report by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

For example, in 2010, health providers spent $88.6 billion on developing and implementing electronic health records (EHRs), health information exchanges, and other health IT initiatives, making healthcare a rich market for IT jobs.

PwC's report, titled "The New Gold Rush" (registration required), states that nearly one in three American adults have worked, now work or would like to work in healthcare. Jobs in healthcare increased 65% between 1990 and 2009, while the rest of the workforce increased 16% over the same time period.

In fact, 75% of Fortune 50 companies are either in the health industry or have health divisions, according to PwC's U.S division. "The booming health market is driving a surge of activity from companies looking to mine opportunities for growth, differentiation and jobs," the report states.

PwC said that exponential increases in healthcare data and the need for meaningful analysis of that data, as well as government spending and new regulations will drive the healthcare industry for the foreseeable future.

Technology companies that support the integration of information across healthcare sectors and that can address regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and Meaningful Use, will thrive.

Over the next two years, 58% of small physician practices plan to roll out EHRs. And by 2014, the federal government wants more than half of all healthcare facilities to use EHRs, according to the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. If healthcare facilities have not rolled out EHRs by 2015, physicians' practices, clinics and hospitals will face penalties.

Other technology companies will thrive developing products that will determine how to provide meaningful analysis of medical data and how the data can be used to support initiatives such as personalized medicine and targeted drug therapies.

"People are short-term motivated, and there are some tools coming out to help, such as medication reminders. If we can understand why people miss their medications, we can improve treatments and outcomes," Rick Cnossen, director of Intel's Worldwide Health IT Program Office, said in a statement.

Additionally, 92% of hospitals are using some form of social media to reach consumers, but only 13% say social media is driving an increase in patients and revenue, according to PwC.

Consumer spending trends

A survey of consumers by the PwC Health Research Institute (HRI) found that consumers are willing to spend a significant amount of money on new health-related services and products.

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