In the wake of a pandemic, shifting care delivery models, and a surge of clinical content, Wolters Kluwer healthcare experts have identified seven healthcare technology trends for 2022.
While the coronavirus in 2020 dramatically altered the way healthcare is practiced in the U.S. and around the world, 2021 has had its own unique challenges — namely, divergent views on vaccines, powerful COVID-19 variants, and hospitals bursting at the seams as they balance caring for patients with and without the virus.
Technology has proven crucial to keeping the healthcare industry resilient in the face of so many challenges. Simultaneously, the widespread adoption of virtual care delivery along with the rapid pace of vaccine creation and distribution have provided hope for many as the world adjusted to “the new normal”.
So, what’s in store for 2022?
Our Wolters Kluwer healthcare experts have identified seven healthcare technology trends for 2022 that they anticipate will empower healthcare professionals to continue pushing towards delivering quality care for all.
1. Building trust in an age of digital information overload
With the COVID-19 pandemic came the information epidemic, or “infodemic”, so named by the World Health Organization for the influx of false or misleading information throughout social, digital, and physical environments across healthcare.
In 2022, providers will need to focus on increasing access to trustworthy, “high-quality, evidence-based heath content” for themselves and patients, according to Jason Burum, General Manager, Healthcare Provider Segment of Clinical Effectiveness. Having content that reflects patients’ lived experiences and supports clinicians in providing clear, accurate, and accessible health information will be key to building trust with patients in an information-saturated climate.
For Burum, this is a key strategic component currently missing from the digital health space, which has mostly focused on technology innovation and workflow improvements. “Effective, engaging digital health requires more than the right technology,” he says, “but a full-fledged experience that informs and motivates consumers towards evidence-based action.”
2. Telemedicine becomes a fixture of the healthcare landscape
As social distancing and stay-at-home orders upended the care delivery model, many clinicians and health systems rapidly adopted telehealth and virtual care models – and have seen the benefits it can bring to patient care.
As a result, telemedicine will likely prove resilient well past the pandemic and will establish itself as a permanent and prominent fixture in the healthcare ecosystem, according to Vikram Savkar, Vice President & General Manager, Medicine Segment of Health Learning, Research & Practice.
Looking to 2022, he expects healthcare providers themselves will be among the first to strengthen and formalize training to research and promote telehealth best practices to their clinical teams. He also expects specialties like mental health and urgent care to make a permanent shift to a predominantly virtual model. “Ultimately, I believe that the rise of telehealth will drive more dialogue around modes of access as an issue not only of tech but also of equity in the years to come. This, in turn, will have big impacts in the future of medical practice.”
3. Resilience is key to retaining the nursing workforce
Resilience has been one of the biggest challenges in nursing since COVID-19 first appeared. Many nurses were already stressed and burnt out before the pandemic; COVID-19 brought that to the forefront and magnified it. Healthcare organizations will need to proactively foster resiliency and workforce wellbeing to combat the nursing shortage and lack of nursing faculty.
According to Anne Dabrow Woods, Chief Nurse, “2022 will focus on restoring a safe work environment with adequate personal protective equipment, and staffing models that are based on acuity of the patients and competencies of the workforce.”
A McKinsey survey from May 2021 found that 22% of nurses indicated they may leave their current position providing direct patient care within the next year. That rate was 15.9% in 2019.
At a time when nurses are needed more than ever, health systems are actively designing and deploying virtual technologies into nursing workflows to reduce burnout and build resilience. They are likely to find an enthusiastic reception. The McKinsey survey also found that more than 40% of frontline nurses have delivered care virtually within the last year, and roughly two-thirds of frontline nurses are interested in providing virtual care in the future.
4. Unstructured health data helps researchers build health equity
The pandemic put a spotlight on health disparities in the U.S. Even with alarming racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infection, many states were not reporting COVID-19 mortality by race and ethnicity.
This greater awareness coupled with new federal reporting mandates will improve data capture in the long term. But Karen Kobelski, Vice President and General Manager of Clinical Surveillance Compliance & Data Solutions, believes that, in the short term, the focus should be on unlocking the 80% of existing healthcare data that remains unstructured. This will be key to making it more actionable for stakeholders across care settings and it is crucial to gaining big-picture insights into our healthcare disparity problem.
Machine learning tools such as natural language processing and text mining can help health systems reveal valuable health equity insights hidden in unstructured clinical data that is difficult to store, search, analyze, and share across health systems. “2022 will be a pivotal year for making healthcare data help and not hinder the bigger goal of delivering the best care everywhere,” says Kobelski.