As we start to put the pandemic behind us in our daily lives, healthcare must start to put the pieces together that the pandemic exposed. Will we see a more equitable healthcare system in 2023? Will it be prepared for another pandemic? It appears that there will not be the investment money we have previously seen. We will be continuing to battle the staffing shortages of essential workers. Here are some final thoughts on what we might see in 2023. And check out all our 2023 predictions.
Going into 2023, hospitals will need to focus on two areas, driving more efficiency and concentrating on more strategic initiatives. This may seem difficult to identify where to start. Below are three areas of opportunity for organizations to start.
- Develop a thorough plan for your cloud strategies before starting any implementation or project launch. We have learned that moving the IT operation out of the hospitals and into cloud (e.g., telehealth) is beneficial for both internal and external customers. However, if you do not have a detailed strategy, proper architecture, total cost of ownership and implementation plan in place cloud migration can be a costly endeavor.
- Leverage analytics for Operational Efficiency. Analyzing key performance indicators such as help desk ticket resolution, or anticipating system failures can dramatically increase your operational efficiency and lower costs. By precisely leveraging analytics in your hospital’s operational models organizations can reduce the time it takes to respond to and resolve issues.
- Embrace Workforce Alliance Models. Hospitals don’t run their own cafeteria, or laundry and many other shared services, yet they insist on running the IT operation in-house, which can be at an increased cost and most importantly burden the IT departments from working on more strategic initiatives. By leveraging proper managed service providers, health systems should build alliance models with firms that provide these services at better cost and outcomes. This process will allow the internal resources to concentrate on innovations that matter to internal and external customers.
By investing in these areas of opportunity hospitals will be better prepared for the unpredictable financial future.
The amount of hostility doctors and nurses are facing in the workplace will become untenable. Even before the pandemic, nurses were five times as likely to experience workplace violence than employees in any other industry, and more recent surveys have found that nurses feel incidents of violence and hostility are only continuing to rise. Hospital leaders are only beginning to understand the scope of the problem, and 2023 will see the start of some real action to address it—at least among hospitals that will find themselves suited for success in employee engagement and retention. The solution is two-pronged: first, hospitals need to release the pressure valve with patients. Paying better attention to the voice of the patient, rounding to understand patient needs in the moment, and better education about care and process will all help to alleviate mounting patient frustration. Second, hospitals need to redouble their efforts around staff wellness. PTSD and depression/anxiety screens serve as effective ways to identify and address concerns in the moment, and proactive staff recognition programs help to remind nurses that the work they are doing is vital and valued, even in the face of new stressors.
Community-based research sites will have their day.
With the proliferation of digital health across the healthcare industry, now nearly any trial site, including those community-based sites that are often closer to underserved communities, can be well-equipped to handle increasingly complex research, making them attractive alternatives. As a result, in 2023, we’ll see life science organizations increasingly eschewing the same-old trial sites to bring more research into more diverse communities.
Financial struggles for hospitals go beyond inflation. On top of market-forced financial pressure, hospitals are still struggling from the fallout of the pandemic. Staffing shortages and the associated costs of traveling nurses, a smaller-than-expected patient rebound, and increasing competition from tech giants dipping their toes into healthcare all have hospital financial leaders on their heels. That means that hospitals are going to be turning over new stones to find places to save. Some of those short-term savings opportunities, however, have the potential to do lasting harm, particularly in the areas of patient experience and engagement. The risk here isn’t that hospital leaders will look at their patient engagement solution and swap it out for a cheaper alternative—the risk is that they’ll do away with it altogether. And in an environment where staff resources are at an unprecedented premium, doing away with automation tools and putting manual work back on the shoulders of frontline staff is a recipe for disaster on its own. Couple that with the fact that any cuts on the patient engagement front will create a patient experience deficit in an increasingly competitive marketplace, and hospital leaders will be doing themselves a dramatic disservice.
With many health systems still reeling from the financial and staffing implications spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that the beginning of 2023 will look a lot like 2022. This is due to the consistent increase in labor costs, equipment, lack of capacity, as well as reimbursement models that cannot fluctuate in this inflationary environment. The constrained Merger and Acquisition activity also poses a fiscal challenge for health systems trying to grow. The good news is organizations have learned a lot in the first year of transitioning from pandemic to endemic. With those lessons learned, we believe executives are going to focus on more strategic initiatives but also be more conservative from an investment perspective. We also believe that the macroeconomic environment will improve and those organizations that are able to smooth out staffing and supply chain challenges will be positioned best going forward. If organizations choose to invest in solutions and diversify their healthcare portfolios, that will yield improvement as we progress through 2023 and put health systems in a stronger, more optimistic position going into 2024.
Hospitals and health systems are under increasing financial pressure from lower revenues and higher costs, with many provider organizations falling into the red. They also are struggling with the impact of labor shortages across their organizations that diminish efficiency and utilization management. Further, competition from healthcare disruptors is taking outpatient market share from traditional provider organizations. In the face of these market challenges and economic uncertainties, hospitals and health systems must aggressively seek to redesign internal and external processes to reduce or eliminate inefficiencies that not only increase operating costs but make it difficult to find beds for patients when they need them.
The exodus of healthcare workers is creating stress, financial challenges, and uncertainty in the U.S. As our population ages, we will need more care providers to provide for the baby boomer generation. In the next decade, we expect physical therapy to grow by 21%; yet, in 2021 over 21K providers left the profession. To help solve these problems, the industry must create an efficient and enjoyable work environment. Technology is a necessary solution to the growing challenges impacting physical therapy. Investing more in technology is paramount for therapy organizations facing increased labor cost, reduced reimbursement, and evolving care delivery models.
There will be a growing “digital divide” in service areas among hospital systems. On one side will be those systems that have invested in automation in order to improve the efficiency of patient access and patient flow in perioperative and inpatient settings. They’ll see increased surgical revenue as a result. On the other side of the divide will be systems that don’t make the necessary investments and will continue to rely on manual processes that are less efficient and less productive.
Digital health literacy is going to be an increasingly important topic around medical education for 2023. Over the past few months we’ve seen an acceleration for what AI models are capable of through amazing demonstrations from ChatGPT and Dalle-2. It’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to move away from the rote memorization of medical training, and focusing medical education on learning to use and incorporate these new digital tools.
Vijay Karia, Chief Digital Officer, Connect America
Staffing shortages and the need to reduce hospital admissions will continue to drive the need for advanced risk scoring in 2023. With falls being the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among adults aged 65 years plus and accounting for 50% of ED visit admissions, risk scoring will focus even more in this critical area. Today’s AI-enabled technologies are predicting falls risk and hospitalization within 30 days by tying data from Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS), RPM devices, EHR systems and Medication Management devices. This continuous and actionable data helps identify and treat at-risk patients faster, resulting in fewer hospitalizations and better outcomes.
Patrick Murphy, General Manager, TruBridge
The year ahead will bring continued pressure on staffing, with no relief in sight of the shrinking labor market. This, of course, calls for a greater demand for automation and machine learning, allowing staff to really focus on patient – and self – care. Payers are experiencing staffing issues similar to hospitals, which is causing delays in authorizations, and thus, denials and extended processing times for appeals. Digital front door technology will create efficiencies and patient engagement in 2023 that lead to greater patient connections. We expect to see continued health care policy legislations focused on patients, like pricing transparency and the No Surprises Act.
With the mandate to comply with open API standards in the 21st Century Cures Act, we will see more integrations between EHRs and third-party applications. That may include connecting the EHR to wearables, health apps, patient monitoring tools, and more. It will mark a new chapter in a “platformized” and personalized healthcare consumer experience, providing patients and providers a singular view of their health on one data platform.
In 2023 I expect the HIT Industry will solidify a strategy and discipline as it relates to historical and archived health data. The Information Blocking provision of the 21st Century Cure’s act has been the catalyst for making all electronic health information available to patients, which includes data stored in archives. The accessibility of this archived data will be driven through the adoption of the HL7 FHIR specification. As the FHIR specification matures, there will likely be several additions to the existing FHIR implementation guides focused specifically on the delivery of data directly to patients.
Emerging technology is not the biggest threat to healthcare data security – forgotten data is. Within healthcare organizations, there exist a number of copies and backups of patient EMRs and clinical data. As new technologies, including improved AI and cloud capabilities, emerge within the next few years, data will be shared and copied to countless locations, increasing the surface area for data security threats. With the lack of knowledge and visibility into where protected health information (PHI) is stored within an organization, IT teams will not only need to be more cognizant as to where sensitive data is located and how effectively it is protected (from breech, exfiltration, etc.), but also more strategic about the ability to recover data should it be lost or ransomed. Between 2009 and 2021, there have been 4,419 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records, with the number of breaches increasing year-over-year. To mitigate this threat in 2023, rather than viewing new technology as a security threat in and of itself, organizations will shift their focus to better data management.