Looking Ahead at Healthcare in 2022

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2022 predictions - a label on grunge wooden file cabinet. Expectation and speculation for the incoming year.

Cool Photos from Depositphotos

By Jennifer Goldsmith, president; and Seth Frazer, vice president of strategy

Tendo Systems

The competition for attention and dedication of patients to their healthcare providers has skyrocketed this past year. Hospitals are in the contest, as are pharmacies and wellness services outside the medical establishment. Even smartphones are in play, with apps that promise to address specific patient concerns

To an unexpected degree, one consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to upend many traditional processes for acquiring and delivering health services. Telemedicine now connects patients with providers across the nation; mobile apps bring care into the patient’s home; decentralized trials shuffle the connections between clinical investigators, pharmaceutical companies, and trial participants.

With all these forces pushing and pulling on the healthcare ecosystem, hospital administrators are focused on enhancing the connection between sites of care and patients. It’s a two-way street: patients can get better information about their care and providers can enrich the datasets on which they base their care decisions. Tendo, a software provider for this hospital-patient connection, discusses how this may evolve in the coming year.

Prediction #1: Healthcare Organizations will become increasingly consumer-focused.

We’ve entered the age of the healthcare consumer – thanks, in part, to the wide adoption of telehealth, increased use of wearable technologies, and impacts of the pandemic. In fact, nearly 80% of people say COVID-19 inspired them to pay more attention to their health. Patients also now expect a more seamless experience similar to the online retail purchasing at Amazon and are treating healthcare like they do any other good or service, especially as the cost of healthcare continues to rise. Catering more directly to patients as healthcare consumers will drive investments in modern technology and a re-examining of process as healthcare organizations seek to be more consumer-centric.

Prediction #2: For healthcare systems, 2022 will be a year of analysis and action.

COVID-19 has shone a bright light on the opportunities for improvement and cracks in the healthcare system. While there’s consensus that changes are needed, most organizations haven’t yet determined how to move the needle. 

In 2022, healthcare organizations will seriously examine the current patient experience and points of friction – for instance, accessing care is highly disjointed and patients are engaged as one persona when the healthcare consumer looks very different at different points of their lives. Reviewing the wider landscape will give providers a deeper understanding of the current state and who they serve, examining what patients and their caregivers need from their health experience, and the technology that can enable that experience. 

Some leading hospitals, such as Jefferson Health of Philadelphia, started that analysis in 2021, but others will enter the assessment phase of their transformation this year. In six months, we will see providers start taking steps to turn the new patient insights into action.

Prediction #3: Healthcare will become more collaborative.

Traditionally, healthcare has operated patriarchally. Doctors tell patients what they need, and patients go ahead and do it. However, patients and caregivers are more knowledgeable than ever and want to be more involved in all healthcare decisions. 

Much like their financial health, patients are approaching personal wellbeing by looking at their options and making educated decisions with their providers. And, it’s not surprising as studies show that when patients are more involved in their healthcare decisions, they have better results. Similarly, caregivers expect greater collaboration – especially as more than one-in-ten parents are also caring for an aging relative. 

Digital adoption across providers will also encourage greater collaboration with patients and caregivers, as they can discuss patient care based on shared data sets. Today’s team-based approach to care, too, demands doctors and advanced practice providers – i.e., physician assistants, nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and advanced dental therapists – work closely together to coordinate with the patient as the “point person” of their health.

Prediction #4: The healthcare marketplace will continue to see an expanding array of competitors.

Driven by the market opportunity for improved convenience, cost, and quality, more healthcare companies are trying to expand their share of the consumer’s attention. More than one-quarter of consumers don’t have a primary care physician and studies report 10%-15% are dissatisfied with the one they have. So new entrants are proliferating. Retail pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, are offering primary care. New digital primary care offerings are surfacing, too, including K Health, 98point6, and Babylon Health. Large corporations are adding their own healthcare clinics on campuses with companies like Everside Health and Premise Health for a direct-primary-care model. High-end primary care providers are expanding. Even consumer-electronics retailer Best Buy is getting in the game, through the recent acquisition of Current Health, a leading care-at-home technology provider. This increased competitive pressure will force healthcare providers to evolve their strategy in 2022, seeking avenues to expand access to patients through digital and other strategic partnerships. 

The right strategic shifts – leveraging modern technology to create a better consumer-like experience for patients – can drive Covid 19 revenue recovery and growth. Recent Accenture research shows that healthcare systems that evolve to meet new consumer experience needs can expedite financial recovery and capture patients from competitors, potentially increasing their revenues by five to 10% pre-COVID levels within 12 months. For a $5 billion health system, this would mean between $250 million and $500 million in additional annual revenues.

Prediction #5: Integrated solutions will continue to gain traction in the market.

Increasingly, companies are consolidating to create more complete offerings as they recognize that patients are not a series of point problems, but rather, people with collective healthcare needs that require seamless solutions. For instance, the merger of Doctor on Demand and Grand Rounds Health, Teladoc’s acquisition of Livongo, and Accolade’s acquisition of Health Reveal and primary care/mental health provider PlushCare all reflect the intent to create vertically integrated health solutions. 

This will continue – possibly by 10x and it will be several years until we have multiple large-scale solutions competing with one another. Over the long run, it’s the most likely path because it takes an integrated solution to deliver the best result. Consumers benefit and investment returns will follow.  

Prediction #6: Health and wellness will grow closer together, both at home and the doctor’s office.

While medical care typically treats illness or injury after the fact, wellness is a personal effort patients take to proactively prevent illness. However, the lines between the two are starting to blur for a more holistic view of health that incorporates both wellness and medical care.

Many health systems are now expanding their missions (and value-based care activities) to encompass wellness. At the same time, consumers are increasingly attracted to the wellness features of tech devices such as the Fitbit or Apple Watch but don’t have easy points of healthcare engagement when their devices tell them something’s wrong. Google consults often generate confusion. 

In 2022, more healthcare providers will seek to bring together information from healthcare records and real-word data captured from patients’ wellness devices and efforts. This may include technology integration as doctors work to create a 360-degree view of their patients. 

Prediction #7: Healthcare organizations will prioritize workforce retention.

Another impact of Covid-19 has been its effect on the nurses, doctors, and other caregivers working in clinical settings. According to Statistica, hospitals experienced a 19.5% turnover in 2020 – a record in recent years; moreover, since 2016, the average hospital has had a 90% turnover of its workforce.

There are many reasons for healthcare workers leaving – including vaccine mandates, long hours, and emotional distress – but another common complaint of healthcare workers is the redundant tasks piled on them amidst shortages of support. Rather than focusing on the meaningful work of patient care, workers are asked to manually rekeying data from one IT system to another and manage a dizzying array of forms. On top of the many stressors thrust upon all healthcare workers during the pandemic, bad technology adds to the struggle.

Workforce retention will be a serious area of focus across healthcare organizations as providers enact various strategies to prevent burn-out. For example, companies will invest more in clinician-enablement technologies to reduce administrative burdens so doctors and nurses can get back to focused patient care. Further, better training can help staff more easily adapt to the new telemedicine paradigm and leverage digital tools to lighten their daily load.

Prediction #8: Health equity commitments drive community solutions and greater focus on SDOH goals in operations.

This year, we saw a dramatic increase in healthcare systems commitments to health equity and building on momentum from prior years. But all recognized that only a part of the solution lay within a health system’s walls and that foundational data was missing to focus efforts and set goals. In 2022, we will see more diverse leadership teams driving extensive, practical community partnerships to address social determinants of health (SDOH). Social venture-backed companies will play valuable roles in delivering new intervention models and technologies to support these strategies. Digital, for those with broadband, will significantly increase patient access to alternative healthcare resources and SMS-based communications will expand engagement. Data models will be re-architected to incorporate social variables, too. It will be a learning process, though, as new analytics shine an even stronger light on disparate outcomes. As such, management teams will launch important, new initiatives but also grapple to find effective internal interventions and build momentum.