Healthcare Trends to Watch in 2022

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As healthcare providers continue to battle patient surges brought on by the Omicron variant, a strong and agile workforce response will have positive implications that last far beyond the current health crisis. In these unprecedented times, what priorities should healthcare leaders focus on as they prepare for 2022? This year, industry players should continue to work towards new best practices in meeting the needs of patients and healthcare professionals. With that in mind, here are three trending topics that will set the stage for conversations this year.

Telehealth Has a High Appeal Amongst Clinicians and Patients

A report published by HIMSS in partnership with Accenture, The Chartis Group, and ZS found that almost half of healthcare leaders cite digital care as a top organizational priority, with 80 percent planning to increase their digital investments over the next five years. On top of that, 58 percent of surveyed healthcare leaders anticipate spending at least $10 million yearly investing in digital health by 2026.

It’s not just healthcare providers who are increasingly turning toward telemedicine. HIMSS’s Future of Healthcare report also suggests that virtual care is also favored on the patient side, with over half of surveyed patients showing interest in a telehealth-only healthcare system. Telehealth and round-the-clock virtual care have advanced personalized healthcare significantly by allowing patients to stay closely in touch with their doctors and empowering healthcare providers to embrace a more data-driven approach to patient care. The adoption of remote patient monitoring and wearable devices is also on the rise this year, according to Health IT News, who report that third of consumers are more likely to select a provider that allows them to share data from a connected health device.

There’s no doubt that telemedicine will continue to face a number of challenges in 2022. For one, providers offering digital health services will have to get ahead of cybersecurity and data privacy issues. At the same time, some patients may be wary of potential privacy and security concerns regarding their personal data. Then there’s the question of data interoperability and maintaining a successful clinical workflow across the various digital platforms used by different healthcare providers. On both the provider and patient side, there may also be a steep learning curve when it comes to adopting and adapting to evolving digital health tech tools. In some case, the costs of maintaining an up-to-date healthcare technology infrastructure, as well as the high volume of resources required to implement that technology, may be a barrier in itself. Lastly, with both healthcare and health insurance providers at odds over the billing of telehealth services, healthcare leaders need to consider how they’ll navigate the issue of pricing transparency when it comes to offering virtual care.

Flexible Schedules, Career Development Opportunities, Mental Well-Being, and Virtual Models are Key to Improving Nursing Workforce Satisfaction

As of now, the nursing shortage isn’t going anywhere. Rethinking employee retention and satisfaction strategies is another priority that healthcare leaders have carried into 2022. Faced by overwhelming workloads, burnouts, poor work-life balance, and fear of getting sick, many nurses and healthcare workers continue to seek out more attractive employment opportunities.

There are several ways in which healthcare leaders can combat high turnover. Where possible, they should offer flexible shifts and work schedules to their nurses, as well as manage workload by limiting overtime. Additionally, employers in the healthcare space may improve employee retention if they emphasize career growth by providing nurses with the resources they need to develop professionally while offering salary growth opportunities and bonus packages as incentives. On top of this, healthcare employers should place increased focus on employee well-being and mental health by offering ample health and wellness resources, creating a supportive work environment, and making employee efforts feel appreciated.

A May 2021 survey by McKinsey & Company found that approximately two-thirds of frontline nurses are interested in providing virtual care in the future. Integrating virtual ways of working into nursing workflows may reduce burnout by alleviating of the stress factors associated with physical demands of in-person care.

Affordability and Pricing Transparency Are Growing Concerns Among Patients

According to HIMSS’ Future of Healthcare report, patients also identified affordability and pricing transparency from healthcare providers as key priorities.

What are the Costs Savings Associated with Virtual Care?

A study by RAND Corporation reports that high out-of-pocket costs may deter patients from choosing telehealth visits over in-person care. Despite growing patient interest in telehealth services, evidence is mixed on whether or not virtual care can provide cost savings to patients. In reality, pricing depends greatly on the healthcare provider, severity of the condition being treated, and the patient’s insurance plan.

Telehealth visits have the potential to generate cost savings by replacing costly and unnecessary visits to urgent care clinics or ERs. On-demand care can also address episodic healthcare needs and may prevent the need for subsequent ambulance trips and hospital admissions. That being said, patients may be instructed to seek follow-up care where a physical exam is required or if symptoms worsen, resulting in additional costs. Additionally, the convenience and accessibility associated with virtual care may encourage patients to seek care for more minor symptoms than they otherwise would, which could increase overall healthcare costs.

What Are the Costs Savings Associated with Virtual Care?

It’s been exactly one year since the Hospital Price Transparency rule took effect; the rule requires all US hospitals to make available online, in a consumer-friendly way, all pricing information by item and service. Despite this, hundreds of hospitals across the country have failed to comply. Earlier this month, the “Patients First” act took effect in Massachusetts—requiring all healthcare providers to notify patients directly how much they’ll pay for medical procedures, healthcare services, referrals, and planned hospital stays based on each patient’s health insurance plan. In an era of high-deductible insurance plans, healthcare providers can benefit greatly from directly engaging patients in meaningful conversations to go over cost of care, discounts, and deductibles in-depth. Being able to offer pricing transparency will give healthcare providers a competitive advantage while improving patient experience and satisfaction.

2022 has gotten off to another complex and uncertain year for healthcare. While the challenges are numerous, healthcare leaders can continue to empower patients and employees by remaining innovative and keeping abreast of topline industry trends.

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