Just as last year, digital transformation continues to be the answer to many of the challenges still facing our healthcare system. The industry has been digitally transforming for decades now, but the sheer volume of data we are collecting now is continuing to drive innovation. And there is still nothing stopping it continuing into next year. Here is what the experts have to say.
And join us for the next few weeks as we look at what we might see in 2024.
With constant changes in healthcare systems, mergers, and platform transitions, data archiving will continue to play a pivotal role in managing digital health strategies in 2024. The surge in electronic health records over the past several years has increased the volume of valuable data, which extends beyond just patient records to encompass critical areas like nursing, scheduling, HR, and payroll. Analyzing historical data has become essential for understanding resource allocation, optimizing outcomes, and addressing staffing shortages. Health systems that can embrace older data as an invaluable resource are better able to leverage predictive modeling, enhanced insights, and proactive patient care strategies in 2024 and the years ahead.
Healthcare remains an unsettled atmosphere bearing close attention, especially during an election year when regulatory pressures heat up. However, market forces both beneficial and detrimental further contribute to the complexity of our industry, including cybersecurity threats and the rise of generative artificial intelligence. The ONC will try to address the remaining 21st Century Cures requirements while navigating responses to emerging risks which extend beyond regulatory enforcement to include catastrophic and existential threats. Looking ahead to 2024, significant developments are anticipated, including the inaugural transactions of QHINs, the implementation of FHIR exchange under TEFCA, and the introduction of “service as software” AI solutions. These innovations will spawn the next wave of legislative responses to emerging technologies.
Advances in digital health are changing the way clinicians care for their patients. Take oncology for example. Cancer patients often experience treatment-related symptoms that can lead to unplanned acute care visits that not only escalate costs but disrupt treatment plans. Studies reveal that chemotherapy patients visit the emergency department an average of twice per year, with 53% of these visits potentially avoidable through timely and tailored outpatient care. By leveraging digital health solutions that can harness real-time patient data and personalized insights, oncologists can proactively identify those high-risk patients, enabling interventions before emergency department visits become necessary. These advances empower evidence-based decision-making and contribute to a more streamlined and efficient healthcare system, marking a significant step toward a patient-centric future in healthcare.
Adopting an All-Fronts Approach to Tackle Primary Care’s Biggest Challenges
Healthcare is hurting. Burnout is taking a toll on physicians and clinicians across the spectrum. Retail pharmacies are unable to fill technician roles. And patients feel the burden of rising prescription costs and primary care provider shortages in nearly half of counties across the U.S. Despite these challenges, patients are the reason 2024 will bring opportunity and a renewed commitment to improving technology, advancing interoperability and helping healthcare heal itself by simplifying health intelligence sharing.
It will require an all-of-the-above approach. This means aligning policy, compensation and technology to improve patient access to care, ensuring clinicians have the patient intelligence they need, making it simpler to collaborate as a team, identifying more affordable prescriptions and strengthening the trusted relationship between prescribers, pharmacists and their patients.
Patient hyper-personalization: Leveraging the growing desire that patients want a great consumer experience when accessing healthcare, healthcare practices will be diving into the trove of patient data available to them, utilizing technology to craft a more “personalized” healthcare experience. From treatment plans to communication preferences, tailoring care to the unique needs of each patient is becoming the new standard. This also becomes essential to successfully navigate the patient, and provider dynamics and increase patient loyalty, when there are multiple options now available to them.
Empowering Care Teams to Tackle Burnout Through Technology
Today, doctors are forced to work the way computers do. But in 2024, we can make it simpler, with new technologies enabling computers to work the way doctors do. Burnout continues to be a huge challenge across healthcare and as care teams expand, technology will restore a more natural workflow for clinicians and help return more focus to the patient. Technology will greatly reduce the mechanical and administrative elements of being a doctor or clinician, allowing for more time for empathy—enabling deeper conversations about the patient’s health that align with what’s best for the patient.
In 2024, digital health will takes center stage as an increasingly interconnected world prioritizes innovative technologies, artificial intelligence, and data-driven solutions to revolutionize healthcare delivery, enhance patient outcomes, and address the evolving challenges of a rapidly changing global health landscape.
We have three primary predictions as they relate to digital health in 2024:
- It won’t be long before software as a medical device, or in our case, prescription digital therapeutics (PDTs), are a normal part of a patient’s treatment plan. We will see the initial shift to this new path in healthcare in 2024. It’s a future where patients are routinely considered for PDTs alongside traditional pharmacotherapy, offering the opportunity for personalized treatment plans to improve patient outcomes all under the supervision of a licensed healthcare provider.
- When it comes to new technologies and digital health startups that will try to shape the future of healthcare, we foresee that the next wave of innovators will have to adopt many of the same standards for development rigor and clinical data as traditional biotech companies to demonstrate safety and efficacy. This shift will require players who put evidence first and seek FDA marketing authorization in the development of their digital health technologies. We’ve seen that targeting a lesser standard has not resulted in commercially successful products. Investors have seen this as well.
- Finally, we will start to see a race in the digitization of pharma pipelines. Because FDA has made clear the added benefit of software to drug labels, pharma will embrace opportunities to develop combination products that pair pharmacotherapy with software as medical devices (SaMD). Specifically, the new FDA Draft Guidance (Prescription Drug Use-Related Software (PDURS)) signals that the industry’s regulatory bodies are taking note of how SaMD can enhance pharmacotherapy outcomes. Combination products that combine drugs with SaMD-based therapy in a single prescription can boost efficacy in existing endpoints, or extend efficacy to endpoints not currently targeted by the drug alone, resulting in improved outcomes for patients and a new product opportunity for pharma.
Market shifts indicate that people will continue to favor outpatient settings over inpatient. This means healthcare delivery will continue to expand beyond traditional settings into homes, retail stores, shopping malls, campuses, airports, workplaces and more. This will require healthcare providers to be more resourceful and flexible in meeting the staffing demand for this while controlling costs. Providers will turn to AI-Enabled marketplace platforms to achieve this.
The home healthcare sector is experiencing a dynamic and fast-paced evolution, which highlights the urgency for clinical systems capable of seamlessly operating within this framework. These systems should also be able to access and engage with data generated in patients’ homes. Simultaneously, the healthcare industry will continue to actively explore ways in which AI can enhance healthcare IT solutions. Many potential applications are emerging, but their ultimate effectiveness relies on the availability of top-notch structured data. Natural language processing, for instance, can provide such data, thereby facilitating interoperability, maintaining quality standards, and advancing value-based care initiatives.
Companies promoting their new blood test and treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease are expected to spend well over $1 billion in 2024. This massive spend will change how the public thinks about the disease and will increase the demand for primary care to manage identification and initial evaluation.
Health systems will increasingly prioritize achieving the quadruple aim – improving patient experience, population health, and care-team well-being, while lowering costs – and will look to virtual care partners to help them get there. By increasing virtual care options, hospitals can enhance access to care for patients and lower costs. Additionally, virtual care partners can help health systems improve care quality and boost job satisfaction for frontline workers.
To advance patient care, create new revenue streams, and advance therapeutic research and development, provider organizations and life science companies will seek new collaborations that leverage health systems’ wealth of real-world data. Using synthetic data derived from real patient data, for example, life science organizations can accelerate the discovery of insights to drive novel therapies, technologies and solutions in a secure, efficient, and controlled environment. Thanks to that capability data from multiple health systems can be combined and provide more comprehensive view on the cohort of interest.
A major emphasis across health systems and pharmacies alike in 2024 will be improving the work experience for their clinical staff to help reverse the epidemic of burnout and resignations we have witnessed in the last few years. Health tech is currently contributing to this problem, but it can also help solve it by addressing the inefficiencies, time-consuming processes, and irrelevant interruptions that frustrate clinicians and contribute to burnout. Streamlining workflows will offer more time for pharmacists to practice at the top of their license, such as by counseling patients and delivering vaccinations, as well as enabling health system physicians and nurses to spend more face-to-face time with patients.
Healthcare continues to face the unprecedented challenges unleashed by the pandemic – challenges that won’t go away in 2024. Hospitals stretched beyond capacity and had scarcity in resources, which led to clinician burnout. Despite this chaos, providers also learned about behavioral health needs, health equity gaps, and providing personalized care. As we look to 2024, one universal truth remains – engaged patients have better outcomes and technological innovations focused on the patient experience will be the key drivers to delivering digital transformation in healthcare.
One area where digital health has an opportunity to make a dramatic impact is in response to public health emergencies. Building resilient health IT systems and workflows can mean the difference between being able to hit the ground running when a disaster hits or not knowing what to do. We lived through this in early 2020 as the public health emergency COVID-19 began and in-person medical visits stopped. Providers were left scrambling to stay connected to their patients and save their practices. Investing in improvements to healthcare transformation services, FHIR-enabled care coordination, telehealth and remote patient monitoring platforms enable healthcare organizations to remain resilient in the face of adverse events.
In 2024, health technology will be a game-changer for the health sector. We will witness more innovations that will make health care more efficient, effective, and personalized. We will benefit from smarter, faster, and more affordable solutions that will enhance health quality, equity, and sustainability.
Unaffordable bills and unsustainable levels of medical debt will continue to affect too many patients throughout the U.S., making it vital that providers exhaust all avenues to help vulnerable patients understand what they owe and offer flexible payment options to help meet them where they are. To help make the payment experience more patient-friendly, providers can offer digital health tools and services that deliver flexible payment options to patients, including pre-service cost estimates, buy-now/pay-later plans, acceptance of next-generation payment methods like digital wallets, and post-service payment plans.
Digital health technologies will continue to transform healthcare in 2024 and beyond. Healthcare organizations will invest in modernizing their technology infrastructures in 2024 with cloud-based data engineering frameworks that enable the ‘network of networks’ necessary to support value-based care (VBC) and alternative payment models. Further, artificial intelligence technologies will allow healthcare stakeholders to digitize data at scale. This includes unstructured and social determinants of health data, both of which can be leveraged to improve care quality and health equity.
Rethinking the Role of MD in DTx and DTC PTSD Care
The rise of Digital Therapeutics (DTx) and Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) devices has significantly influenced mental health, filling crucial gaps in contemporary patient care. While these at-home devices offer valuable solutions, their nature often bypasses the involvement of an attending clinician in overseeing self-administered treatments, particularly vital for maintaining a steady and healthy recovery from PTSD. In the coming year we will see a stronger push toward engaging clinicians in the utilization of digital therapies in the clinic, with the overarching goal of enhancing patient outcomes.
Supporting a multi-generational patient pool will be a primary factor in how care providers continue to enhance the patient experience in healthcare moving forward. Let’s face it, patients have access to many resources to pick, choose, and pick again who they want to see as a provider. Patients from each generation — from the Silent Generation through Generation Z — have different preferences and exhibit unique behaviors. While digital health technology opens more opportunities for tech-savvy patients, it does not displace the “oldie but goodie” as we continue to support all five different generations in healthcare today. Patient experience is not just something we think about in the aesthetic practice, but in every specialty. It’s imperative that we understand each generation has different expectations for marketing, education, loyalty, and the list goes on. What we learn about those expectations will influence how we collect, cultivate, and convert prospects into patients — especially considering loyalty is not a hallmark of younger generations and requires skills, training, and tools to support.