Like many other areas of healthcare, the pandemic has shown us what the wizard behind the curtain really is. And it hasn’t been pretty. To right the ship with the goals of a truly healthy population, health equity must be addressed in the forefront. These health IT experts aren’t just predicting this but insisting it. As tradition, 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.
COVID-19’s influence on highlighting the disparities in access living at the core of the health equity crisis and the important role community programming plays in closing social health gaps that drive up to 80% of an individual’s health status will continue into 2022. Truly closing the health equity gap will push the industry to think locally at an accelerating pace. It will highlight the need for technology that ‘weaponizes’ the creation of medical/non-medical relationships, meeting each partner and role where they are, in their abilities to exchange the required information, to deliver on their responsibilities in the care plan while getting paid for it. For decades now, the industry has invested in technology to increase the efficiencies of, and improve the outcomes from, the clinical care delivery process. 2022 will see a significant ramp up of investment in technology that enables and greatly simplifies the administration of value-based care across all settings, locations and required partnerships—and in the process, empowers new relationships, whole-person outcomes and broader financial participation.
We have BIG problems facing us in healthcare—the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic, mental health crisis, staggering impact of chronic conditions and health equity—and we have to leverage every tool in our toolbox, including technology, to overcome our obstacles. Data, analytics, collaboration, innovation and medical science are imperative to helping us battle these mounting problems. Technology serves as a connector, breaking down silos to improve care coordination and positively impact outcomes across patients’ physical and behavioral needs. We must focus on addressing these challenges and blazing new trails through our innovative solutions.
Health equity, value-based care and the hybrid model for virtual care will all be critical as we head into 2022. Hybrid models of care — the mix of both virtual and in-person care — are here to stay as evidenced by the 2022 Physician Fee Schedule. This new fee schedule makes it clear that payment parity/compensation for outcomes-focused providers will continue to be priority. While expanded coverage of virtual care delivery such as remote physiologic monitoring and remote therapeutic monitoring is included in the 2022 schedule, there is still important work to be done to expand this coverage to federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics to ensure equitable access to care.
The pandemic brought new focus on health inequities, as long disadvantaged communities experienced worse outcomes from COVID-19. Rural areas are particularly vulnerable, with high rates of poverty, food deserts, poor infrastructure and limited access to health services. New investments in broadband access in the bipartisan infrastructure bill will help close the digital divide in these areas, allowing more patients to access the benefits of telehealth and patient portals. Meanwhile, data-driven analytics will enable rural providers to better understand the impact of the different social determinants of health (SDOH) on their population, aiding in applying for grants for community benefit programs.
Population Health: – A considerable amount of focus will be placed on real-time ingestion of Social Determinants of Health (SDoH). Elements of SDoH will be applied in the overall decision-making of a consumer’s care plan. Race, ethnicity, language, zip code, and even the air quality index of one’s neighborhood are all factors that impact health outcomes, and we should expect health tech companies to integrate this actionable information in the products they offer to the market.
I predict that 2022 will witness renewed and further expansion in value-based care and reimbursement that hold providers financially accountable for the cost and the quality of care they deliver. As an industry we must push forward collaboratively with the journey to value-based models. The full integration of population health analytics and outcomes data is essential to succeed under these new payment models. However, organizations can’t cut costs at the expense of patient outcomes. In addition, population health data will continue to be the fulcrum to truly improve community wellness, reduce healthcare costs, and address the gaps in healthcare disparities.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on health disparities in the U.S. and the industry can no longer turn a blind eye. 2022 will be a pivotal year for making healthcare data help and not hinder the bigger goal of delivering the best care everywhere. How data collection, standardization and exchange can be improved is becoming urgent. The critical success factor will be unlocking the 80% of healthcare data that is in unstructured form and making it widely accessible and actionable for stakeholders across care settings.
When one considers that more than half the bad outcomes in term pregnancies in the U.S. are avoidable, it is certainly justified that maternal and fetal mortality and morbidity are gaining a measure of attention of late. Frustratingly, most of these events root back to delayed recognition, escalation, and treatment of clinical warning signs. These problems persist even after decades of training and simulations, status quo never drives change. Change in this venue requires embracing technologies built to provide timely, standardized assessments of how mom and baby are tolerating labor. These tools help counter clinical bias and normalization of deviance, and ultimately support bedside nurses and their patients regardless of geography, race or socioeconomic status.
In 2022 the issue of health equity will become even more central to the national conversation, forcing healthcare providers to grapple with longstanding systemic challenges such as cultural competency and whole-person care delivery. Healthcare coverage will become increasingly more accessible thanks to our current administration’s commitment to underserved populations, however fee-for-service rate compression and national provider capacity limitations will severely hamper our nation’s already-dire access to care situation. Both CMS and providers will continue to turn to population and value-based payment models as the natural answer to incentivizing care this is data driven, proactively managed and community-based.
Social determinants of health (SDOH) and social care platforms– In 2021, as a result of pandemic response, HIEs and RHICs provided invaluable resources to partners in public health, health care and community health organizations. There is a strong link between public health and addressing SDOH. Resulting from increased attention to this relationship, 2022 should see increased efforts around SDOH. This is not just in terms of SDOH data, though there will be greater focus on interoperability, but it is also the importance of being trusted partners in communities where health data organizations are neutral conveners both across stakeholders and sectors. Such entities who are trusted neutral convenors who understand both the need for social care platform selection, implementation and the complexities associated with doing so are exceedingly important to SDOH interoperability and close loop referrals. Health data organizations can be extremely helpful in leading such efforts.