Digital Health is using technology to help improve people’s health and wellness. Our healthcare industry has be digitally transforming for decades now. But the sheer volume of data we are collecting now is driving innovation that can be called revolutionary or evolutionary. And there is nothing stopping it continuing into next year. As tradition, we have rounded up the industry leaders that have thoughts and predictions for what we might see in the new year when it comes to digital transformation. And join us for the next few weeks as we look at what we might see in 2022.
Building trust in an age of digital information overload Digital health investment in 2021 has focused mostly on technology innovation and workflow improvements. What I’m seeing in the digital health space is akin to the implementation of EMRs, which really focused on the technology itself and not the content inside, which creates the experience for both clinical users and consumers. What’s missing from digital health strategy, and what providers will need to focus on in 2022, is increasing access to high-quality, evidence-based health content that consumers and providers alike can trust and understand. This ease of access is crucially important to overcome the infodemic of COVID-19, with an influx of misleading and rapidly evolving information we’ve seen expand across all areas of healthcare. Effective, engaging digital health requires more than the right technology, but a full-fledged experience that informs and motivates consumers towards evidence-based action.
Two years of COVID-19 have taken their toll. As burned out healthcare professionals continue to leave the workforce in 2022, traveling nurses will be in high demand, particularly in rural areas. However, rural providers will need to compete with larger and wealthier hospitals, whose recruiters will poach staff with lucrative offers. To ease the strain on the remaining staff and stem the tide of burnout, hospitals will need to simplify their digital workflows. This will reduce the time staff need to spend with the hospital IT systems and allow them to spend more time with their patients. Meanwhile, data analytics will enable staff to focus their limited time on the patients at greatest risk.
The need to retire Tech Debt is going to be front and center for CIOs. With inflation, staff issues (great resignation and burn out), etc., CIOs will need to find operational efficiencies to fund new projects. One of these steps will be tech consolidation to reduce maintenance spend.
With two years of experience navigating the pandemic, healthcare organizations will be transitioning beyond telehealth and mobile applications which support improved patient engagement. Now, they’ll be seeking mobile technologies that better support their nurses and physicians on the patient care front-lines. Most demonstrably with nurses, the pandemic has amplified historic challenges and introduced new ones in the areas of nurse management, recruitment, retention, compensation, scheduling, training and job satisfaction. Nurses are moving away from the profession, so technologies which support care providers will begin to take centerstage. For too many years, we have not adequately cared for the for the people that care for us – and 2022 will bring renewed focus on changing that.
The pandemic demonstrated individuals’ interest and engagement in healthcare, defining their role in accelerating healthcare’s digital transformation. Patients are now recognized as the ultimate guardians of their data, capable of making decisions of who can have access when. In the coming year, patient identity management will become a requirement to successfully aggregate all documents in a single patient record for the patient to administer.
We’ve seen massive investments in digital health over the past couple of years, and rapid adoption of new patient-centered apps and platforms. Given that growth, we expect to see a continued focus on how big data management can help healthcare organizations connect the care journey and facilitate a more proactive approach to care. In 2022, we’ll be seeing more tangible uses of AI in remote monitoring and real-time care management platforms to support better outcomes and aid in clinical decision-making. The ongoing emphasis on consumerism will continue to fast-track the development of best-in-class digital experiences for patients.
Two driving forces in healthcare that will affect care delivery in 2022 and beyond include workforce disruptions and the need to operate as one. Health systems will look to their technology partners for advisement on how to reduce workforce stress via tech-enabled solutions and how to improve care transitions. The new era of digital innovation should support, not stifle, patient access and workforce optimization. Health systems need to use all of the tools available to effectively manage patients across diverse care environments. Addressing workforce disruptions, and barriers to access in local communities, requires seamless and effective care transitions—which can and should be enabled by technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the need for proactive planning in healthcare. Instead of relying on reactive measures, we have the opportunity to utilize technology to face these challenges head-on with new levels of forethought. The chronic crowding of our nation’s emergency departments should also receive new attention in 2022, leading to a new focus on capacity and resource management technologies. Increased usage of patient transport platforms will help hospitals locate available beds, make informed care decisions, and synthesize clinical data on patients awaiting transfer. As more and more facilities adopt technology systems as an infrastructure for managing patient flow, they will be better equipped to make informed patient decisions to maintain care quality, ease patient overcrowding, and ensure the sustainability of the healthcare ecosystem.
Next year we’ll see more creative and aggressive acceleration of technology-driven performance and accountability in healthcare. The pieces are aligning in terms of data availability, regulatory policy, payer-provider partnership maturity, and overall readiness. There’s a tipping point to when technology will truly start to drive productivity in the work to improve affordability, quality, and experience—and 2021 will be a banner year.
In 2022, advanced technology like virtual simulation and online learning will become more valuable and commonplace in nursing education. And with critical nursing shortages, the technology can eliminate traditional roadblocks such as a lack of physical training sites as well as potentially staffing challenges with flexible solutions for faculty. To get nurses up and running, technology tools can strengthen NCLEX prep and clinical judgement preparation and ensure nurses enter the workforce prepared for the realities of real-world practice (e.g., clinical decision-making and a diverse patient population and practice environment).
Digital transformation in the healthcare industry has been pushed forward as a result of the pandemic. Healthcare CIOs will be driven in 2022 by the need to mature their IT operations and workstreams to focus on integration, automation, and security across their technology ecosystem. Patients and quality care are always center stage in these technology decisions. That’s why patient experience, distributed computing, and advanced technologies must lead the way as building blocks for lasting digital healthcare transformation.
In 2022, we expect open API adoption to skyrocket in adoption among emerging life sciences companies. Why? It’s simple – real-time insights and data integration capabilities are a core business differentiator and an enabler of both speed and innovation.
For example, Empatica – a company that builds trusted software and algorithms to advance understanding of human behavior through wearable sensors – leveraged API technology just this past year to specifically integrate Jira and Qualio to streamline integration between their software development and quality management teams.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly shaken up the healthcare industry. New tools and technologies were quickly implemented by providers in an effort to provide care virtually, which naturally shifted patient expectations and accelerated the consumerism of healthcare. Looking ahead, the personalization of health tech will further increase, and patients will demand even more convenient communication options and user-friendly healthcare technology as they seek to interact more directly and build deeper relationships with their providers. The digital front door will create a gateway for patients, with tools like electronic forms, virtual waiting rooms and more telehealth appointment options, being implemented more and more by practices in 2022, as providers seek to further adjust to the specific needs of their patient populations in order to improve patient engagement and satisfaction.
A silver lining in the dark storms of the Covid-19 pandemic is the rapid expansion of the use of telehealth to deliver medical services and mental health care. The shortage of providers looms in the near horizon. Recent studies point to both the efficacy and the improved access to care provided by telehealth, and with cost savings to health plans and to patients. In a recent study, 1 out of 3 patients (31%) using telehealth services had a behavioral health diagnosis. In previous studies, 75% of all doctor visits are for stress-related conditions. I predict that there will be a growing demand for vetted, science-based online content for patient engagement in self-care, delivered by health professionals to their patients, with secure telehealth.
Critical progress in data integration will bring about major improvements in healthcare.
The evolution of digital healthcare demands improvements in the management of data, but it seems as if no entity is currently in a position—or willing—to properly integrate it. Consequently, patient health summaries are often incomplete or otherwise inaccurate because of the lack of coordination among providers, health systems, health devices, EHRs, pharmacies, health plans, etc. With the current system too fragmented to get EHRs to talk to each other, coordinating all the operational and institutional elements with the financing necessary to integrate data is still in the future.
Machine learning and AI are already contributing to numerous advances across healthcare, and AI’s use as a tool will continue to be critical to data integration. Applications in radiology are already helping clinicians in busy hospital settings prioritize their interpretation of critical findings, leading to a faster review of cases for patients with more significant risks for adverse outcomes. During the hospital overcrowding in 2020 in New York, the Mount Sinai Health System used an algorithm to help identify patients ready for discharge.