Every U.S. presidential election is a turning point – perhaps none more so for modern healthcare than the 2008 election. That resulted in major shifts in our society that impacted the way we think about obtaining and paying for care.

Much has changed in all facets of healthcare in the nine years since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Healthcare has seen new advances in the use of data-driven insights, remote care via telemedicine, and incredible new cellular-level therapies via biotechnology. Intelligent devices such as fitness wearables and promising patient engagement technologies to improve adherence are taking hold. Payers are experimenting with new treatments such as acupuncture to treat addiction.

This blossoming of innovation presents new opportunities to advance the pursuit of the so-called “triple aim”: quality, cost, and population health. It also raises new policy issues such as access, data privacy and ethics. As we enter the 2020 presidential election cycle, healthcare reform promises to be a major debate point once again.

We see a twofold opportunity for healthcare innovators to 1) help lawmakers and regulators shape policy to incentivize innovation and continue to open new markets and 2) show how recent innovations are already helping solve seemingly intractable problems.

We’ve compiled a list of the five hot-button election topics where innovators and disruptors can insert themselves into the conversation and shape national dialogue on these issues.

Five Opportunities for Innovation to Shape the Health Reform Debate

  • Universal Health Coverage – Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are campaigning on Medicare-for-All. Should one of them win, the resultant overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system will require long-term investments in efficient, scalable technologies, including big data, AI, and new payment and revenue cycle management systems – all through a government appropriations and contracting process.
  • Cost of Care – With the cost of insurance skyrocketing and benefits falling, patients are becoming value-minded consumers again – they are searching for cost- and time-saving alternatives, including telehealth consults, drugstore clinics, alternatives to conventional medicine, health apps with Uber-like simplicity, and connected, intelligent personal health devices.
  • The Silver TsunamiEvery day, 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 years old in the United States, a trend that’s been under way for years. Innovative services that take strain off the healthcare system by allowing the elderly to age in place yet stay connected to quality care can improve outcomes and keep a lid on costs for aging Boomers.
  • Opioid Epidemic – Despite recent legal settlements, the epidemic is far from over. Currently, healthcare organizations are testing innovative methods for treating pain and addiction, such as acupuncture. Still others are looking at new ways of preventing addiction in the first place, such as through nutrition and mental health programs.
  • Veterans Care – In June 2019, the Department of Veteran Affairs began allowing veterans to seek private care after waiting 20 days to receive healthcare from the VA. As more and more veterans seek care within their communities, the healthcare system will have to adapt to meet their unique care needs and provide alternatives to long waits and long distances.

Though the campaign trail promises to highlight additional debate points, such as mental health care and the cost of prescription drugs, we believe that these five issues present ripe opportunities for innovators to not only insert themselves in the conversation but also help shape future policy on a national scale. Leading up to November 2020, businesses that can help solve complex problems should position themselves as part of the solution and begin engaging key policymakers.

One way to do that is to think about policy angles when developing corporate messaging and marketing, social media, and PR content. How do your innovations solve the problems the candidates are incessantly raising on the campaign trail? What specific policy recommendations do you have to share?

Next, think about how to get your messages into the right hands. This may mean engaging with the press that covers healthcare on the campaign trail. It could mean heading a policy or PR committee in a trade association with a national voice. It could also mean direct engagement with candidates when they land in your district or targeted Twitter ad campaigns focusing on policy influencers. Today, there are numerous communications strategies you can put to work to make sure your message gets heard by the next generation of political leaders.

The 2020 election promises to be full of intrigue, ideas and hot air. When it comes to healthcare, there are serious issues at hand – and significant opportunity. We encourage everyone with great ideas to share to get a head start.


RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm providing public relations for innovators in the technology, public sector, and healthcare markets.