Patient Experience is not just a buzz phrase. It is a major driver of health IT innovation. The healthcare industry to say the least is doing a little catch up to other industries when it comes to how their customers or patients interact with their entities. Gen Z or iGen are now entering their 20s and will start graduating from college and entering the workforce. This generation has never been without a personal computer or even a smart phone. Their banking, retail, and communication is all digital, it always has been. How will patient experience shape our 2022? We have rounded up some 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.
Over the past two years, patients have deferred important preventive care. The care they did receive was often delivered over the wire, from many states away, by providers with no prior relationship or understanding of health history. Provider groups are suffering burnout and attrition, limiting care capacity even as the pandemic thaws. The thaw itself is being drawn out unnecessarily as huge numbers of Americans resist the vaccine and distrust our healthcare institutions. This confluence of factors presents a catalytic moment for our industry. We must reimagine connected, whole-person care. Those that can quickly build trust and provide multi-modal continuity across the care journey will take advantage of this unique moment. Those that don’t face obsolescence.
As more and more facilities are recognizing the importance of individualizing treatment at the point of care, precision dosing and the monitoring of specialty drugs at the bedside will continue to build momentum. In 2022, we expect to see precision dosing expand beyond treatment for infectious diseases to encompass therapeutic areas such as oncology, blood and marrow transplants, solid organ transplants, and inflammatory bowel disease. The rise of clinical decision support technology will help hospital-based physicians and pharmacists incorporate precision dosing into their clinical practices to ensure patients receive the correct dose of complex medications such as chemotherapy and intravenous antibiotics.
I look at patient engagement in two different contexts: a clinical side, and an administrative side.
From a clinical perspective, the patient experience is continually evolving. You can see this in patients with chronic conditions. The digital experience has become an integral part of their healthcare journey. Through mobile devices and applications, clinicians can now connect with their patients around telehealth visits, health risk assessments, patient monitoring, and more. Clinicians today can create a one-of-a-kind, digital-first experience for their patients. That is becoming competitive table stakes. We’re already seeing a majority of patients now seeking providers based on that digital experience. So, it’s critical that CIOs and health administrators integrate an engagement tool that ensures the provider-patient connection is cleared and strengthened when added to their existing health systems, not obstructed by it.
On the administrative side, consumerism and convenience have taken the patient experience to the next level. How patients are approaching healthcare is changing, so how providers administer healthcare is also changing. In 10 years, will there be a different way of providing healthcare? Absolutely. But it won’t happen next year. It will be a series of small, technological innovations and process changes. Software developers will need to take another look at workflows — the way physicians work, for instance — as well as data’s role in the patient journey. As devices deliver more and more data, we’ll need to determine which data we should pay most attention to, which data can be used to incentivize behaviors that result in better health outcomes along the patient journey.
Digital Health: I believe we live in an “experience economy” and consumers will want a digital experience that is high-touch and modern, while simultaneously being humanized and personalized. Similarly, expect adjacent yet relevant consumer information (pharmacogenetics, nutrigenomics, etc.) to be incorporated as part of digital health.
The easy money is on the growth of remote patient monitoring. We should see this area continue to blossom as smartphones become increasingly capable and developers become increasingly clever at repurposing phone cameras and sensors to collect physiological data. I probably should include smartwatches in that trend, too. I’m very excited about the impact on healthcare transparency and collaboration that the 21st Century CURES Act is inexorably driving. In 2022 and 2023, I expect to see companies laying the groundwork for making patients’ own health information available to them in ways that barely exist today. Where patients’ data yesterday was inaccessible, and where today it is incomplete and static, tomorrow it will be rich, largely complete, and actionable. We should see a real renaissance in patient access to information and collaboration with their care providers beginning in 2024. As our country continues to struggle with cost and quality of care, and as responsibility continues to shift toward the patient, the important next step is giving the patient not just information, but also the just-in-time tools to walk them through what matters and what to do about it.
Delayed and forgone care during the pandemic will inevitably lead to inaccurate incomplete assessments of patient health status, projected healthcare needs, and predicted cost of care by payers in 2022. Traditionally, payers look at the last year to figure out what they’re going to do differently the next year; that won’t be a good proxy this time. Payers will have to take a deeper dive into all corners of a member’s record, go back more than the past year and improve the way in which they leverage data to identify clinical insights that can better inform care moving forward.
Over the past year, the pharma and biopharma industries have undergone massive expansion in the use of digital health solutions to support clinical development programs. This growth may be attributed to many factors, but the pandemic and increasing support and guidance from regulators—for example the FDA’s highly active Digital Health Center of Excellence—have had a tremendous impact. We will see this trend continue across many areas, but three areas stand out: digital endpoints, wearables, and digital companions. Digital endpoints—sensor-generated data used as clinical evidence of drug safety and efficacy—will continue to gain significant support and acceptability by the industry. This will be due in large part to the efforts of organizations like the Digital Medicine Society (DiMe) to develop a standardized library of valid digital endpoints. Wearables offer the opportunity to collect real-world data for use as digital endpoints, and in 2022 we should see these technologies continue rapid growth in both category and capability. Finally, next year we will likely see increasing collaborations between pharma and biopharma with digital health product manufacturers to develop digital companion applications designed to enhance patient outcomes for a variety of drugs.
Self-Service and Process Automation are starting to peak now but these are going to get stronger as CIOs look for ways to improve consumer, partner and developer experience and streamline processes. For example, health plans are currently having to scale solutions to meet the demands of the Interoperability Rule, 21st Century Cures Act. The challenge is extensive, from enabling self-service connectivity, providing robust security & audit, to scaling up to meet a difficult-to-estimate traffic volume. Self-service and automation are the clear answer to minimizing the impact on staff and systems.
Overall, healthcare is an industry rife with inefficiencies, so coming out of the most impactful worldwide health event of our lifetimes, the patient experience should remain a priority in 2022. It is paramount that we embrace the opportunities brought on by the pandemic to be substantially better. For healthcare leaders, look at all available technology solutions carefully and focus on the ones that improve the patient experience. Those will win the day.
Headed into 2022, the economy still will affect health system financial recovery. The Consumer Price Index is at a 10-year high and labor and supply chain material costs are skyrocketing with expected increases of nearly 4% and 10%, respectively. Rising inflation will accelerate depreciation of patient receivables. This will make it untenable for most organizations to continue underwriting patients’ medical costs with an internal payment plan. Just as patients can’t afford medical care, most health systems can no longer afford to be a bank, keeping open balances on their books for the long term.
Fintech companies will continue to enter the healthcare sector offering retail consumer payment solutions. However, healthcare is highly nuanced compared to other industries. Applying consumer retail payment strategies and solutions to healthcare requires deep understanding of and first-hand expertise with the revenue cycle, payer-provider relationships, regulatory requirements and the overall patient financial experience. It’s crucial that revenue cycle leaders outsource patient financing to a trusted leader that truly understands healthcare. Your checklist for patient financing service should include:
- Proven technology integration with patient accounting systems, estimation, eligibility and payment platforms
- Program availability and support at pre-service, Access/Registration and business office
- Analytics-driven financing options
- Omnichannel engagement for patient/consumer convenience
- #1 rated industry recommendations and certifications
Curtis Gattis, CEO and Co-founder, LeadingReach
As we continue to see new variants, subsequent delayed care and other pandemic curve balls, efficiency and optimization are the name of the game when it comes to meeting patient needs. In 2022, we’ll see more healthcare leaders focus on identifying and tracking critical conversion metrics (like their referral-to-appointment ratio and referral response rate) to ensure patients are getting the care they need rather than falling through the cracks, which happens 50 percent of the time with outdated communication processes that involve faxing. As a result, we’ll also see more provider networks shepherding their patients towards more strategic partners and clinics and away from less responsive, less timely care. The traditional need for healthcare has not changed, even in the face of a global pandemic, but we will see an increased push to engage patients with their care, particularly when it comes medical conditions that require a team approach to healthcare.
The pandemic has increased primary care referrals for depression and anxiety by two fold, adding to the issues of rising costs, shortage of qualified professionals and long waitlists. Increasing mental health access while managing costs is going to continue to be the main focus of 2022, with heightened emphasis on the ‘languishing’ or subclinical populations who are still struggling. Digital mental health will come into its own, with payors and providers finally adopting and reimbursing at scale. Providing personalization and engagement via AI-guided cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that listens, triages and coaches patients in need will be paramount. These and other high engagement technologies such as digital games will replace static iCBT programs that have struggled to keep users engaged. Clinical evidence will become table stakes for digital mental health players, with the winners going beyond the research environment to demonstrate real world improvements in increased access and reduced costs of care.
After the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, CMS proposed to make telehealth a more prominent part of health care services. Fast forward to present day, and CMS has released the 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule, extending the telehealth services expansion. While this is a help for many patients, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced criminal charges against 138 defendants for alleged healthcare fraud schemes, which resulted in $1.4 billion in losses. In 2022, health care fraud will continue to be central to rising health care costs.
Effective January 2022, the No Surprises Act is designed to protect consumers by restricting excessive out of pocket costs from surprise billing. While many states have tried to address this problem, we’ve seen a large gap in consumer protection. According to InstaMed’s Trends in Healthcare Payments Eleventh Annual Report, 80% of consumers were surprised by a medical bill. As patients have greater responsibility for out of pocket costs, they will exert more choice in their health care decisions based on costs in 2022.
The cost of healthcare will continue to rise—and continue to be a wide-reaching, hot-button issue—despite the increasing prevalence of value-based care models.
In 2019, the most recent year with 12-month statistics, healthcare costs comprised nearly 18 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services project that U.S. healthcare spending will grow 1.1 percent faster than the annual GDP, and by 2028 will reach $6.2 trillion— almost 20 percent of GDP. According to research sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Americans will not be rewarded with better health outcomes in exchange for the higher spend.