Expect doctors' groups to consolidate and Wall Street equity firms to get into deals with health care practices in the coming year, a Jersey law firm that specializes in health care law says.

John Fanburg, chairman of the health law practice at Brach Eichler, LLC in Roseland, said the consolidation of doctor practices will continue as they "join some of our larger, multi-specialty groups or single-specialty groups, or highly-integrated physician groups to be more competitive."

He said the consolidations, which began a few years ago, "give them the ability to have a little more strength in negotiating contracts for reasonable reimbursement, or so that they can be part of a larger group that has more infrastructure, such as electronic medical records and staffing that they can share, and reduce their overhead in a reimbursement-restrictive environment."

Some other health care trends that Fanburg's analysis predicts in 2018:

• Private equity will continue to have an appetite for health care next year. Medical practices will continue to be what Fanburg calls "hot tickets" for private equity deals in New Jersey.
* More group practices will tap the capital markets so they can acquire newer and better technology and improve practice efficiencies.
* There will be more data breaches and HIPAA violations. But federal and state regulators will respond more swiftly, and enforcement will happen more swiftly.

Fanburg also said health care costs will continue to rise, but "separate and apart from the cost of insurance.

"I think that health care is going to get better for New Jersey citizens" because there will be more of an emphasis on measuring quality of care and efforts to be more efficient," he said.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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