Day 8: Looking to 2022 with the Women of Health IT
On Day 8 of our 12 Days to Christmas Posts we turn our sights to 8 predictions for 2022 from women of Health IT. Will we be crying over spilled milk for what’s to come?
As we recall the predictions from last year, most were looking to the pandemic to be behind us and efforts toward a post pandemic era. It appears we find ourselves back in another surge with a new variant of the virus. Hospitals are again filling with infected and critical patients, and the first death from the Omicron are being reported. As the pandemic continues so does its exposing of the needs of our healthcare system. Are the experts once again looking to a post pandemic era in 2022?
In 2022, consumer loyalty and choice will continue to shape the landscape of healthcare payments. This will be driven, in part, by the 56% of consumers who would consider switching providers for a better healthcare payments experience. When consumers hit friction points in their healthcare payments journey, it impacts their overall loyalty to the organization. Providers will need to prioritize a simplified, digital-first healthcare payment experiences to ease the burden of increasing out-of-pocket medical costs and deliver better experiences for all consumers.
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.
Data show that while hospitals have allocated more resources to infection prevention and control efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, it has largely come at the expense of controlling other far too common healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). It’s true that a larger volume of sicker patients at higher risk of infection and sepsis have been admitted to the hospital over the last year, but the CDC concluded that 2020 increases in HAIs were also a result of lacking surge capacity and other operational challenges. Looking ahead to 2022, as hospitals take aim at controlling all HAIs in addition to COVID-19 with more resilient care teams, they will be looking more closely than ever at AI-powered technology to support proactive and real-time monitoring of patients to empower staff with quick risk identification abilities and opportunities for earlier clinical intervention.
Clinicians will move from brick & mortar jobs with traditional provider organizations to hybrid and/or virtual care roles.
As virtual care continues to garner interest among patients, providers, payers, and digital health innovators, more clinicians will turn to remote care or hybrid options as a career choice vs. traditional brick and mortar jobs. There are a variety of reasons for this coming change – most notably, clinicians have carried an overbearing workload during the pandemic that has negatively impacted both the professional and personal aspects of their lives. With nearly 80% of patients stating they themselves have noticed clinician stress and burnout, it’s clear that clinicians – just like everyone else that is part of the “Great Resignation” movement – are ready for change.
In 2022, we’ll see a greater emphasis on designing systems based on interoperability standards that connect community stakeholders to healthcare providers – ultimately allowing care teams to better address social, economic and other factors to manage complex needs of at-risk populations. I also predict the expansion of interoperability standards, so that health and human service information can be better shared and made accessible to the care team to enhance person-centered care.
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.
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.
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.