Prediction #1: The retail-isation of healthcare continues to progress, transforming the delivery of care to be more accessible, convenient, and consumer-centric
When it comes to the retailisation of healthcare, the future is now. Retailisation is all about increasing access — making it more available to more people, and that is transformational. Health systems are being challenged on how they are providing more accessible, equitable care, particularly to people located in “medical deserts” or far from areas with easily accessible healthcare options. As a result, patient engagement remains a top priority for healthcare providers. Furthermore, patient engagement technologies – digital communications and records, mobile apps, patient portals, etc. – are expected to be a top spending priority for healthcare providers.
Industry initiatives will include single occupancy rooms, smart patient rooms, self-serve kiosks and digital front doors — the technologies patients use to interact with healthcare providers throughout their care experience. As the use of technology in the healthcare industry continues to grow, look for it to transform into a more “friendly” retail environment. This will help improve the overall patient experience (and experience scores (HCAHPS)), with more patients using self-service capabilities offering a “frictionless” experience from admissions to accessing their care every step of the way.
A do-it-yourself/self-care mindset may drive many consumers to take control of their health in non-traditional ways, and healthcare systems will need to adapt to maintain continuity in patient care. Consequently, we are finding healthcare delivery organisation (HDO) business models under pressure to deliver highly reliable care at a lower cost at a place and time that is convenient for the consumer. This might surface as “clinic in a box” facilities, community health “step downs” and proactive home health services – especially as capital budget challenges and delayed slow down campus expansions.
Prediction #2: Interest in telehealth – and the emergence of new use cases inside hospitals and clinics – will continue to grow
Telehealth, or the combination of telehealth and in-home care, will be the preferred way of receiving care moving forward. This includes patients receiving care virtually and with a visiting nurse for modern-day healthcare house calls. There will be an increased expansion in home healthcare in the coming years with a focus on sending patients home vs. keeping them in hospital beds. It is important to note that this trend is in its early stages, and it is important to gain early ground here.
Expect digitalisation investments and digital health to be top IT priorities. Priorities have shifted toward tech that enable care teams to collaborate and coordinate care as well as share patient information. This will require improved real-time visibility of patients and the ability to target resources to orchestrate care delivery efficiently.
Heightened visibility into the potential of telehealth, chatbots, and remote patient monitoring prompt healthcare providers to determine the right care model and service delivery balance moving forward. Mobile devices with 5G connectivity will be imperative. Though most people think of telehealth as a provider consulting with an at-home patient, expect to see more inpatient oversight via telehealth through 2024. In both scenarios, high volume telehealth utilisation will drive greater use case sophistication, combining communications, asynchronous video, and AI applications. Telehealth also offers clinicians the flexibility they desire.
Traditional telehealth will continue to gain traction outside the hospital. The rise of telehealth (or telemedicine) during the pandemic proved that virtual care can be quality care. It has also given new meaning to the phrase “doctors without borders.” In the past two years, healthcare providers have seen just how much they can impact people outside the local communities they normally serve. Clinicians are now available 24x7x365 to conduct routine checkups and triage medical crises.
Beyond increasing care access for billions of people in both developed and mobile-first nations, telehealth has increased the convenience and comfort of care for patients everywhere. People no longer must go to the hospital or clinic for every appointment – or to get a prescription renewal or specialist referral. And they no longer must be concerned with commuting or wait times. They simply need to be virtually accessible for their scheduled appointment.
Prediction #3: Driving to comply with digital health regulations continues to drive tech modernisation and automation
Digital health is here to stay. This means the need to transform and adhere to digital healthcare standards is non-negotiable for healthcare providers. As the norm is to ID everyone and everything in all healthcare settings, the industry will be focused on digital identity for all patients and assets to improve asset management. Data transparency among all enterprise stakeholders is dramatically increasing. Healthcare leaders have an opportunity to build trust with partners and customers by proactively becoming more transparent.
Over 60 countries have now enacted digital health regulations and/or Ministry of Health digital mandates which include unique device identification (UDI) and medication serialised marking. Both UDI and medication serialised marking provide a digital identifier on medical devices used in patients, such as a pacemaker, and medications given to patients, essentially providing the ability to track and trace a device or medication. As hospitals implement the digitisation to comply with these regulations, they’ll reduce adverse product recall and inventory events and falsified medical product use. Another benefit will be accelerating HIMSS Stage 7 implementations, the highest level that a healthcare organisation can reach to show it is leveraging technology in a useful and meaningful way.
According to Forrester, labour shortages will double the medication error rate among providers. Extra vigilance can be added with the help of barcode medication administration and IV infusion safety systems, and electronic health records to intercept adverse drug events. Expect IT teams to continue to spend on technology modernisation with an emphasis on laying a solid, long-term framework that can support rapid solution scaling in the years to come. The feedback loop between science and technology is getting faster, with each accelerating the advancement of the other.
Prediction #4: Labour challenges and nurse staffing shortages will continue, leading to automation and AI solutions to better manage operations and accelerate innovation
Healthcare costs are 10 per cent of global GDP spend as the nursing shortage continues to grow and more healthcare providers drop out of the workforce or seek roles that provide more flexibility. Higher operational costs coupled with labour shortages feels like a recipe for disaster. Undoubtedly, the healthcare industry will need to be more innovative to improve operational efficiency, capacity and labour management associated with the higher costs and less available labour challenge.
The demand for more flexible healthcare roles is also adding a new twist to the labour challenge. According to McKinsey, 45 per cent of healthcare practitioners say they do some remote work, perhaps reflecting the rise in telemedicine. As telehealth and home healthcare expand, expect more clinicians to seek more roles that provide more flexibility. A typical shift for a clinician requires that they remain within the four walls of a healthcare setting, whereas providing care in a home gives clinicians flexibility and allows them to spend more time with patients and provide more personal care, autonomy and control.
Within hospitals, leaders will automate as many workflows as possible to better manage the supply chain, patient demand/turnover, and the workforce. They know they must improve resource utilisation and service quality. Healthcare will require more end-to-end visibility in the supply chain, together with other applications driving environmental sensing growth. Expect providers to adopt real-time health system supply chain platforms, driven by the need to more closely align supply chain logistics with clinical activity.
Automating the right processes will allow for more efficient throughput management, as well as scheduling optimisation. Expect more interest in business model transformation, which includes dual systems of care, site-of-care shifts, and virtual care product lines.
As the healthcare system is strained by an ageing population and broadened access to public health care, it will be nurses who feel the weight of patient responsibility on their shoulders. According to a recent McKinsey study, 45 per cent of inpatient nurses (who make up about nearly half of the 4.2 million nurses in the US) say they are likely to leave their role within the next six months. The top reasons cited were not having a manageable workload and not feeling valued by their organisation.
Though these stats reflect the US situation, this is a global concern; it’s estimated that up to 13 million nurses will be needed to fill the global nurse shortage gap in the future.Staffing shortages are driving the need for artificial intelligence to accelerate innovation, particularly for patient diagnosis, treatment and home healthcare. In the same study, nurses expressed that documentation, or “hunting and gathering” takes up about 15 per cent of their time during a shift, rather than patient care. Tech and digital solutions can help reduce this burden on nurses’ time. Leaders lean on the full capabilities of next-gen AI given the sheer volume of data and insights it can provide to drive solutions. Do not underestimate the speed at which AI will play a larger part in healthcare.
Prediction #5: Non-acute (home healthcare and ambulatory) care providers will become fast technology adopters
The growth of patient care and jobs outside the hospital is one of the fastest-growing and highest-margin segments in the healthcare industry. The non-acute sector must make up for months of paused procedures during the pandemic. The faster they can turn patients and procedure rooms, the more revenue they can generate. However, such turns require precision and extensive coordination between clinical and non-clinical staff. Expect to see increased digitalisation of information systems and widespread deployments of clinical smartphones and healthcare-grade tablets that can expedite positive patient ID, check-ins, reporting, charge capture and more. The entire patient journey will be digitalised, to the benefit of physicians, nurses, support staff and patients alike.
Prediction #6: Technology will be leveraged more to reduce preventable errors
Hospitals can be dangerous places with at least one in 20 patients affected by preventable patient harm, with 12 per cent of this group suffering from permanent disability or dying because of it. Safety is the top priority for hospitals and healthcare organisations and one patient harmed by medical error is one too many. To help reduce preventable errors, strengthen decision support and provide stronger healthcare protocols, hospitals will continue to leverage technology.
Nine in 10 hospital decision-makers say they will increase spending on clinical mobility, with the push for clearer communications and greater workforce productivity core to this strategy change according to Zebra’s Healthcare Vision Study. They will be investing more heavily in care-team communication point of care mobile device utilisation, barcode utilisation and compliance rates and cleaning and disinfectant utilisation and compliance. Additionally, mobile alerting systems will make it easier to deploy, manage and use with enterprise-grade clinical smartphones that have security and privacy-centric feature sets along with remote management capabilities.
Thomas Duparque is the Healthcare Business Development Manager — EMEA, Zebra Technologies.