As the healthcare industry becomes more interconnected in response to a wide range of economic and societal factors, the landscape is changing for all parties involved, including payers, providers, and patients. In a dynamic time for the industry, here are four of the main factors driving the changes and what they mean for the primary stakeholders.
1. The lines between traditional and digital are blurring.
As startups and traditional providers race to meet their patients’ needs, the lines between new and old models of care delivery have blurred. Patients are using digital tools for the purposes of remote monitoring, and using them successfully, forcing traditional health systems to adapt or die. That includes improving price transparency. In the traditional healthcare system, the price you pay for services depends on your insurance coverage ― the opposite of a simple price tag. Price transparency and an emphasis on a la carte services are a major boon to providers in the direct-to-consumer healthcare space.
A related phenomenon: a few native digital firms have expanded into brick-and-mortar offices. Tia, the female-focused virtual care platform, now has locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Phoenix in addition to its Manhattan flagship. Cityblock Health is another digital-first provider with locations in five states and the District of Columbia. Kindbody was offering its fertility, gynecology, and wellness services online before moving into physical spaces in 13 cities across the U.S.
2. Healthcare providers are managing burnout.
The causes of burnout among healthcare workers are well-documented, including consolidation and other factors driving the current labor shortage. According to Mercer’s 2021 analysis of the healthcare industry, the demand for primary care physicians, mental health workers, low-wage healthcare workers, and registered nurses are all expected to grow significantly in the years to come. Yet many are leaving these jobs for a variety of reasons (including burnout), which merely increases the strain (including burnout) on the existing workforce.
As a stopgap measure, digital health tools can decrease the outward flow of people leaving the industry by automating some tasks and reducing administrative burdens. Voice-recognition software, for example, has been used to reduce the amount of time clinicians spend updating a patient’s EHR during face-to-face time with patients. This, in turn, decreases the overall workload on clinicians. Other digital technologies can help clinicians manage their own mental and physical health.
3. Patient safety is a top healthcare concern.
Amid infrastructure difficulties, care providers are increasingly concerned about maintaining patient safety. This concern is particularly acute for the maternity population after the recent Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson. A predicted increase in high-risk pregnancies as a result of abortion access restrictions puts more pressure on a strained maternal health system, as OB wards are shuttering across low-income and rural areas.
Digital health solutions that collect biometric data and monitor risk remotely can ensure that patients are cared for between appointments, even as they face increased issues of access. Digital tools support patient safety by empowering them to track their own health, with the security of knowing they are connected to a care provider.
4. Inflation is driving the need for cost efficiency.
Inflation is putting increased financial pressure on hospitals, which were struggling with rising labor costs even before this year. Now, the traditional means for a hospital to boost its razor-thin profit margins are drying up.
Elective and outpatient surgeries experience historic declines during economic downturns. High-deductible health plans are on the rise. These and other factors leave hospitals with little to no ability to increase their revenue. Moreover, a report from the Center for Health Quality and Payment Reform found that 30% of rural hospitals are at substantial risk of closing within the next five years.
Given these factors, it’s likely that cost efficiency will be the most (if not the only) viable option for hospitals to normalize profits in the next three to five years. Technology-based solutions can optimize productivity in a variety of areas, which in turn can facilitate cost efficiencies and help hospitals maintain their economic viability.
Anish Sebastian is the co-founder of Babyscripts, which he established in 2013. Questions and comments can be directed to 24×7 Magazine chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at [email protected].