As predicted 2021 saw the explosion of telehealth visits as the pandemic and lock downs were happening. Telehealth was on top of everyone’s priority list. But it also ushered in a wider definition to care delivery. Remote care doesn’t just mean or include video visits. Remote care and monitoring are care delivery models that can’t be overlooked in the future. We have rounded up the industry leaders that have thoughts and predictions for what we might see in the new year. And join us for the next few weeks as we look at what we might see in 2022.
Alternate forms of care need to––and will be––expanded upon. Telehealth saw a steep rise during the pandemic, but it has tapered off since then. But consumer preferences are here to stay, and they’ve changed. Going forward, it won’t be about in-clinic versus telehealth, but a combination of in-clinic, telehealth, and in-person delivery. Consumers demand at-home, virtual care, in-person, and clinic-based options. So, all services will need to become very dynamic and tailored to patient preferences. For example, the all-digital musculoskeletal providers are augmenting their offerings with in-person services, and many health systems are expanding their rehab offering beyond the four walls of the clinic to satisfy demand for on-demand, at-home services. And with big players like Amazon and CVS adopting hybrid models of delivering care and services, this trend will escalate quickly.
Next year will be one of growing momentum for new consumer-centric models for delivering care. These represent sustained efforts from many types of organizations, including newer healthcare-focused disruptors and outsiders like big retailers, to offer individuals and employers the convenience, value, and patient experience they increasingly expect from healthcare. Providers will have to adapt to these challenges to their traditional operating models.
Rosemary Kennedy, Chief Health Informatics Officer, Connect America
The post-pandemic the market is rapidly embracing connected care solutions such as personal emergency response services (PERS) or remote patient monitoring (RPM). Driving this adoption are the needs of patients and their care teams. In 2022, connective solutions in the home will continue to boost health outcomes and reduce costs while improving access to care, safety and independence for seniors and vulnerable populations.
I believe that the future of software and technology is peripheral in nature. Software will exist in our environment and not in our face. We can program our homes to respond a certain way to our presence. Most software is going to move in that direction.
The best interface for a provider is no interface at all. We’ve seen Amazon and Apple with voice technology. That’s the next iteration of telling the software to do something for you. The next big thing is reactive technology. That, in a business setting, is really interesting. It’s the next frontier!
In 2021 we saw continued use of virtual care, albeit at a new normal following highs driven by COVID. The interesting thing is much of the attention has been on outpatient sessions while use cases within the hospital setting have quietly been growing to the point where health systems have justification for virtual care in every room. In 2022 we expect tele-nursing and remote patient observation to be key drivers for health systems to expand virtual coverage to every patient bedside, from the Emergency Department to the ICU.
Adoption and expansion of virtual care and remote care models across the care continuum of acute, post-acute, and chronic care will accelerate rapidly in the coming year. Hospitals and health systems that have invested in such programs during the past few years are starting to see the dividends in terms of care quality, clinical and financial outcomes and safety. We are at the tip of the iceberg with this movement to care-at-home. Obtaining widespread adoption will require more economic policies to align incentives that encourage adoption, which are hopefully coming in 2022 as well.
The global pandemic accomplished something many in the healthcare sector had despaired – it pushed providers to quickly adopt new technology like virtual care platforms as it greatly benefit both the practice and the patient. That’s why in 2022, I believe we will see medical practices begin to hybridize the way they deliver care. As practices navigate the changing healthcare landscape and look toward the next phases of in-person and virtual healthcare, it’s clear that virtual care platforms can provide exactly the type of hybridized support they need. The reality is that many patients – such as those living in rural communities – would be much better served with virtual wellness checks, quick text-based check-ins, and even symptom monitoring via laptop or mobile device.
I also expect to see the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into virtual care platforms as the healthcare communication paradigm shifts from voice answering machine dominated to a text messaging model. This will enable incoming text messages to be read, interpreted and then automatically routed to the right internal teams. With AI and ML, we’re looking at a more streamlined and seamless way of communication between patient and provider. AI, for example, will allow a provider to receive data – intelligent data – from home devices with remote patient monitoring. This is why I believe the future of virtual care systems will integrate symptom checking and remote vital-sign collection such as blood pressure, oxygen level, and A1C level, some without the need for additional devices like a blood pressure cuff. In essence, AI will allow for smart routing with conversational intelligence. But it does require human intervention, which I don’t believe will totally disappear. What AI and ML will do is take away more tasks that can and should easily be automated as the paradigm shift continues and text messages become the dominate form of communication.
The pandemic has not only impacted the way care is delivered but it has burned out those who provide it – leading to staffing shortages throughout healthcare. This is why in 2022, I predict facilities will need to find a technology that is a force multiplier in efficiency. Implementing technologies that allow providers to streamline communication will be key. Providers will quickly realize that utilizing a technology with the ability to communicate with 6-10 patients via text in the same time it takes to call one, for example, will help ease provider and staff burnout.
I see 2022 as the year where we make the transition in the US from sickcare to healthcare. The pandemic has opened the proverbial pandora’s box of healthcare solutions enabling patients and providers to interact in real time; identifying and closing care gaps in the time they used to spend on hold waiting to schedule an appointment. The continued maturation of RPM/CCM solutions combined with ubiquitous data connectivity via platforms like FirstNet are expanding the reach of these solution and bridge the critical gap in the care continuum when the patient is not in a standard care setting.
Contrary to some news stories, telemedicine will prove resilient well past the pandemic and will establish itself as a permanent, significant fixture in the healthcare ecosystem. In 2022, I expect healthcare providers themselves will strengthen and formalize training to research and promote telehealth best practices to their clinicians. It’s already happening, and I expect to see specialties like mental health and urgent care shifting to a predominantly virtual model in 2022. Ultimately, I believe that the rise of telehealth will drive more dialogue around modes of access as an issue not only of tech but also equity in the years to come. This in turn will have big impacts in the future of medical practice.
Clinicians will move from brick & mortar jobs with traditional provider organizations to hybrid and/or virtual care roles.
As virtual care continues to garner interest among patients, providers, payers, and digital health innovators, more clinicians will turn to remote care or hybrid options as a career choice vs. traditional brick and mortar jobs. There are a variety of reasons for this coming change – most notably, clinicians have carried an overbearing workload during the pandemic that has negatively impacted both the professional and personal aspects of their lives. With nearly 80% of patients stating they themselves have noticed clinician stress and burnout, it’s clear that clinicians – just like everyone else that is part of the “Great Resignation” movement – are ready for change.
Yossi Bahagon, M.D., Co-Founder and Active Chairman, Sweetch
Digital therapeutics will start putting more emphasis on co-morbidities and a holistic patient view in the coming year. The industry will also become more individualized based on improved data analytics.