Turning the page on 2022 will be a cause for celebration in the healthcare sector.
The past year was one of the worst financial years on record for hospitals, according to Kaufman Hall. New data from the healthcare consulting firm and the American Hospital Association indicates that 53% to 68% of the nation’s hospitals will end 2022 in the red. At the same time, hospital employment is down approximately 100,000 from pre-pandemic levels.
This is all happening amid a backdrop of growing margin pressures and an aging population.
So, what will the coming year hold for healthcare organizations and their patients? And how can businesses in the healthcare sector best position for success in 2023 and beyond?
Let’s examine the situation, assess what 2023 will look like and identify the best treatment.
High costs will dissuade people from getting the care they need
Past experience shows us that in recessions, Americans are quick to cut routine visits and medical advice that comes at a cost. Expect continued media coverage on the questionable economy, recession nerves and layoffs to keep people away from healthcare in the year ahead.
Concerns about the economy and the fact that as many as 15 million Americans could lose Medicaid access when the pandemic ends could exacerbate the trend of people putting their health on the backburner to save time and money or try to avoid stress.
Staff shortages and wage demands will pack a one-two punch
Healthcare employees are stressed as well. A recent report explains that nurses are “beyond burnout.” This problem has prompted the launch of a multimillion-dollar burnout prevention program pilot. But research suggests that turnover is highest for health aides and assistants.
High burnout keeps employers struggling to recruit and retain staff. And increasing wages make it increasingly difficult for healthcare institutions to afford the help they need and turn a profit.
One of the reasons there aren’t enough people to serve patients and generate more revenue is because there’s a lot of friction in the current model. Rather than spending time with patients, healthcare workers have to dedicate significant time to dull, inefficient administrative processes. If healthcare organizations don’t address it, this problematic pattern will continue.
A growing number of healthcare companies will automate back-office work
In a move to improve their situation and that of all healthcare stakeholders, healthcare companies in 2023 will automate accounts payable, claims processing, collections and other back-office work. At the same time, health insurance providers will automate most of the administrative work associated with processing claims. This will be especially prevalent at mid-sized companies, many of which previously felt automation technology was out of their reach.
Automation will free up employees to spend more time serving patients, which is what attracted many of these workers to healthcare to begin with. It will enable healthcare organizations to know that administrative tasks are done exactly right every time. And it will allow healthcare organizations to improve efficiency and scalability and reduce their costs.
Typically, automation has been the domain of large organizations, which have the resources to do heavy integration work and bot maintenance. But now, platforms that don’t require such integration and continually optimize bots put automation within reach of mid-sized businesses.
In-person care will take a hit as more people embrace telehealth
Expect growing adoption of telehealth in the coming year and beyond. Many Americans now understand the value and ease of telehealth, which took off amid Covid-19 stay-at-home orders and dramatic policy changes. In the first year of the pandemic alone, 44% of continuously enrolled Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries had a telehealth visit, totaling more than 45 million visits.
Baby boomers and those in dire scenarios utilize in-person visits most often. Chronic pain cases, mental health concerns and pain points of younger people – who will look to mobile-first experiences rather than considering physical locations – will funnel into telehealth.
Meeting patients where they are, rather than requiring them to travel or overcome other barriers to get service, will help patients and every other stakeholder in the healthcare system.
Advances in AI will take wearable technology, healthcare applications to the next level
Major wearables companies like Apple and Google Fitbit have amazing proprietary data sets. Recent artificial intelligence (AI) breakthroughs will allow these major wearable companies to use their unique data and devices to unlock new and even more exciting applications.
OpenAI’s new GPT-3 chatbot, which delivers more advanced results than people expected, is one sign of where things are headed. This signals that AI models are becoming more advanced.
To date, wearable technology has primarily involved consumer applications that track how many steps you take or capture your workout history. And with recent advances in AI modeling, we’re likely to see some interesting new use cases in the healthcare and insurance arenas over the next year. But now, the major differentiator won’t be how you interface with AI but rather who has the unique training data needed to unlock new experiences and applications for end users.
Technology will move healthcare in the right direction
Running a healthcare operation and delivering quality care to patients isn’t easy, as the past year clearly demonstrated. Inefficiency and unnecessary friction are a large part of the problem. And healthcare is far more expensive than it needs to be. The U.S. spends nearly twice as much as the average OECD country yet has some of the worst outcomes.
But, with the right technology, healthcare organizations in the year ahead can become more efficient, make quality care accessible to more people, reduce their recruiting and hiring costs, prevent mistakes, and deliver better outcomes for themselves, their workers and their patients.