By Travis Rush, Reperio Health
In the middle of a long, freezing winter and an ongoing pandemic, it’s hard to feel optimistic that sunnier days lie ahead. Yet despite current stressors, there are a few notable bright spots on the horizon around consumer healthcare.
Here are three important healthcare trends that promise to positively impact our lives in 2022 and beyond.
#1: AI health risk modeling
What would you do if you could get a “crystal ball” glimpse into your future, and know, with a fair amount of certainty, your risk of COVID-19 complications, developing Type II Diabetes, or becoming one of the 6 in 10 Americans who lives with one or more chronic health conditions?
Recent advances in technology are making clinical insight — and the potential to avoid chronic disease — possible.
Enter prescriptive artificial intelligence, or prescriptive analytics, which uses advanced machine learning algorithms to analyze biometric data, health history, and genetics for the purpose of modeling an individual’s future health status and risks. This not only helps healthcare organizations with care planning, but it’s also a key tool in preventive care.
Having advanced clinical insights can be a powerful motivator for behavior change. If, for example, a 40-year-old man learns that his weight gain, lack of exercise, and lifestyle, coupled with a family history of hypertension or heart disease, raises his risk of experiencing a heart attack 100-fold, that man might experience the wakeup call he needs to change direction.
#2: Removing treatment barriers
Social determinants of health (SDOH) play a huge role in influencing clinical outcomes and risk factors for chronic disease. According to a recent study published in the journal Permanente Review, social and economic factors such as lack of access to healthy food, domestic violence, and low wages are deeply correlated with adverse health events.
“On the front lines of the U.S. healthcare system, clinicians experience every day how unmet social and economic needs serve as a barrier to adherence, limit treatment options, and shape the flow of clinical interactions,” researchers noted.
Although 83% surveyed by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) said that the impact of SDOH should be addressed, there are still barriers that prevent the medical community from fully addressing this.
To improve SDOH, a growing number of technology vendors are exploring ways to integrate social determinant questions and workflows within EHRs and patient-intake platforms. Others, including a handful of health IT startups, are working closely with employers and public-service organizations to remove barriers to access for preventive care through the use of home-based health testing kits, which make it an easy and convenient way for consumers to check cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, and resting heart rate.
#3 High tech now mainstream
Healthcare will be anywhere and everywhere in 2022, thanks to the culmination of multiple drivers – the sophistication of consumer tech, more flexible healthcare legislation (CARES Act), and necessity. And the need couldn’t be greater: Millions of Americans struggle to access care near their homes due to a dwindling number of rural physicians and mental healthcare providers.
With consumer sentiments around telehealth shifting – 9 out of 10 patients have tried virtual care – in the wake of the pandemic, innovative startups are looking for ways to maximize resources to reach rural areas. What may have seemed high tech in 2020 is now mainstream: wearing smartwatches to track heart rate is no longer a futuristic proposition, while connecting with health coaches via text is now a cost-effective alternative to potentially expensive in-person services that aren’t covered by insurance (e.g., life coaching, personal training).
For individuals who will see in-person care opportunities flatline, these are welcome changes.
The current wave of COVID hospitalizations and clinical burnout is admittedly discouraging, as is the uncertainty around the future. But these three consumer trends offer hope that we can solve some of the bigger challenges around healthcare equity, access, and disease prevention.
Travis Rush is the CEO of Reperio Health.