Healthcare has had a tumultuous past two years. Just what will the next two years look like? Will we still be discussing the pandemic impact? Our industry experts and thought leaders have shared their predictions for 2022 with us over the last few weeks. Here are some final thoughts.
We are on the cusp of a payments revolution in healthcare. As smartphone adoption and internet access become ubiquitous globally, payments are faster and simpler. This revolution will ultimately touch all corners of the global economy, even in the healthcare payments industry, where legacy processes are still prevalent. We can expect to see digital innovations that deliver payments and information faster, already the norm in many industries, become more widely available in healthcare payments. The past two years have clearly demonstrated that the healthcare industry can quickly implement and utilize digital experiences, and healthcare payments are ripe for the digital experience consumers want.
Given the labor shortage and extraordinary demands on healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and health systems must demonstrate a renewed commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of their employees. Healthcare leaders will need to expand the definition of safety and implement solutions to help restore trust and retain nurses, doctors and other team members. The new definition of safety in healthcare will include safeguarding psychological and emotional well-being of healthcare workers, promoting health justice by declaring equity and anti-racism as core components of safety, and ensuring team members are physically safe at work, which includes implementing zero-harm programs for workplace violence and providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and additional variants arise, healthcare technology will play an important role as an engineering control system in protecting and connecting care teams. Communication tools will enable hospitals and healthcare teams to protect and isolate caregivers from the risk of infection.
I see the convergence of three major factors in 2022 with a lot of tailwind behind them—all in an effort to help the country solve its healthcare spending and quality issues. First, the changing relationships between physicians and patients. The 30-year doctor-patient relationship is fading. With younger people, healthcare is more consumer-focused and episodic. Recent studies even suggest that this demographic views convenience as paramount over relationships, quality and even brand. Second, the generational shift to value-based care from fee-for-service will strengthen. More than one-half of CMS participants are now in value-based contracts. And we see our commercial payer clients moving to VBC, too. The third is the continued emergence of technology and how patients engage with healthcare tech at home, recently dubbed the new point of care, and remotely with remote patient monitoring on the rise. As healthcare surveils thousands of patients at home, however, it creates new challenges with even more inbound data sources. We as an industry need to boil down this data, make sense of it, and make it actionable.
Resilience has been one of the biggest challenges in nursing since COVID-19 first appeared, and it’s only getting worse. We knew there was a nursing shortage, and that many nurses were already feeling stressed and overworked. COVID-19 has only brought this problem to the forefront. Nurses are exhausted, morally injured, burnt out, with many considering leaving the profession earlier than they normally would. Looking ahead, healthcare organizations will need to make substantial, proactive efforts to foster resiliency and workforce wellbeing to combat the staffing crisis and academic institutions need to solve for the lack of faculty that are needed to educate our future nurses. 2022 will focus on restoring a safe work environment with adequate personal protective equipment, and staffing models that are based on acuity of the patients and competencies of the workforce.
Technology is in the process of profoundly changing healthcare delivery. With the help of digital devices and AI, many health monitoring and screening functions can be pushed out of hospitals and doctors’ offices into people’s homes. This will help underserved communities have greater access to care, which will be tied to their smartphone and other inexpensive devices.
While standing in front of the Harvard University Library on a recent family trip, I held up my cheap Android phone and noted that the library I held in my hand had more information and was more useful than the vast Harvard Library. Just as digital technology such as smartphones has brought information to all, Digital Health Systems will bring sophisticated capabilities to people from all corners of society. It is a great story of both Innovation and equity.
In 2022, we’re going to see growing consumer demand for personalized experiences across the convenience retail sector. Savvy consumers are increasingly aware of how valuable their data is—so when they share it with retailers, they expect good value in return.
Those expectations include better rewards and loyalty programs with meaningful, personalized offers. Although personalization isn’t new, few companies are doing it really well. But with digital transformation, more retailers now have the tools to collect vast amounts of consumer data and turn it into actionable insights that translate directly to real-time offers and rewards.
If you can deliver the right reward to the right person at the right time, you’ll be a step ahead of your competition. And if you can truly differentiate the consumer experience with relevant, personalized offers, you’ll have a much stronger foundation for building longer-lasting relationships with shoppers.
Curtis Gattis, CEO and Co-founder, LeadingReach
Referral pre-authorizations continue to be a thorn in the side of primary care and specialist offices, but as more and more providers become part of ACOs and narrow networks, that cumbersome step can be eliminated in 2022. Care coordination powered by technology provides an opportunity for seamless, real-time pre-authorization, where phone calls and paper faxes aren’t needed to make sure payers and providers are on the same page. It’s a win-win for patients and providers to accelerate the process of closing the referral and pre-authorization loop while strengthening healthcare ecosystems.
In 2022, consumer loyalty and choice will continue to shape the landscape of healthcare payments. This will be driven, in part, by the 56% of consumers who would consider switching providers for a better healthcare payments experience. When consumers hit friction points in their healthcare payments journey, it impacts their overall loyalty to the organization. Providers will need to prioritize a simplified, digital-first healthcare payment experiences to ease the burden of increasing out-of-pocket medical costs and deliver better experiences for all consumers.
Mark Dorner, Co-Founder and CEO, PreciseMDX
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the way all healthcare stakeholders provide services and care. As the call for testing became critical, clinical labs were counted on to dramatically ramp up operations, create new processes, and provide on-demand testing for millions of consumers. This scramble exposed a need in the healthcare industry for an automated diagnostic testing experience so that labs can scale rapidly, patients can have control over the process and receive results quickly, and providers can treat patients quicker with a faster, more connected system.
Now, as we look to a post-pandemic way of life, the impact that testing procedures have on our lives is here to stay – and it goes far beyond COVID. Certainly COVID-19 testing will continue to remain a priority, but labs will need to invest in advanced platforms that support all types of diagnostic testing including women’s and men’s health (fertility, prenatal, cancer, testosterone), sexual health (STIs, HPV, UTI), wellness/nutrition (nutrition DNA kit, food allergy/intolerances), respiratory, nail fungal wound panels, and more.
Labs must continue to efficiently bring testing – that supports many types – to patients where, when and how they are most convenient. As a result, in 2022, I expect labs will partner across a variety of channels including retail, direct to consumer and on-premises vending machines as they look to transform the diagnostic testing experience to one that is automated, simple, and user friendly. That’s exactly what healthcare consumers expect.
This may be the year that the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) becomes more mainstream. For example, prominent wearable technology companies have made it easier for users to share health data with their physicians. Now arrhythmia detection, sleep patterns, blood pressure, and temperature can be measured without the patient even setting foot into a doctor’s office—and the rate of adoption for wearable technology will only continue to increase. It’s important to think about the glue that holds it all together, the data that is being generated that can be turned into something meaningful and actionable.
As an influx of data is shared with patients’ doctors, it’s crucial to identify important medical needs and gaps by uniquely examining and pulling from datasets to generate digestible and understandable text and summaries. AI automation through Natural Language Generation (NLG) can be used to potentially generate resources for a patient who, for example, has data from a wearable that shows he or she is having trouble sleeping. Although not an emergency, providing tips to create better sleep habits may improve a patient’s overall health. NLG will be a principal driver in fostering actionable, positive experiences for patients and medical professionals.
In the coming year and beyond, integrated IT solutions to address growing diverse populations and their language needs will become more widely available to translate prescriptions instructions at pharmacies. Language access regulations in several states are creating a demand from retail pharmacies for a scalable solution that can accommodate regional language variations and could become a model for delivering multi-language labels across the country.
With emergency rooms overpopulated, doctors overwhelmed and hospitals crushing under pressure in response to the pandemic, we saw an increase in telehealth, virtual care and alternate site treatments.
In 2022, we can expect this shift to continue and strengthen with the expansion of RPM (Remote Patient Monitoring) reimbursement codes. Expected to go into effect January 1, 2022, the new RTM (Remote Therapeutic Monitoring) codes may facilitate homecare in three main areas: through allowing the reporting of non-physiologic data; by allowing self-reporting when using FDA-defined medical devices; and by the expansion of billing providers to include nurses and others.
Additionally, home-administered infusion therapies will benefit from the implementation of connected infusion devices, which will help maintain and improve communication between patient and provider. With connected pumps, providers will have access to data that will allow them to determine infusion compliance and drug adherence, enabling intervention when necessary, but also potentially saving precious nursing time.
With the benefit of data analytics, these connected devices may reveal insights that contribute to an improvement in patient outcomes and potentially to a more efficient delivery of care.