The world of healthcare is constantly changing, fueled by technological advances. As new tools and information are discovered, the way medical professionals approach patient care must also adapt. The question of “how is the landscape of healthcare changing today” has so many answers; it can be overwhelming trying to understand each point. To make this topic a bit more digestible, below are just a few of the more significant shifts that have taken place in healthcare lately.
How Has Medical Care Improved Today?
Both the healthcare industry and individual health care steps have been influenced by the rapid adoption of technology by consumers and business operations. This means that healthcare is undergoing a “retailization” of sorts and will become increasingly decentralized.
Services and procedures that previously were only available in acute care facilities are now offered in different settings. Health care professionals in more ambulatory settings, such as community clinics, are now offering the same options as hospitals. Industry analysts believe that patients’ desire for value-based care, combined with advances in technology, will keep this trend going well into 2022 and beyond.
Patient expectations of service and quality have evolved, based on experience with other industries; anytime/anywhere availability, upfront price transparency, and refined consumer experience are all hallmarks of successful, non-healthcare services like Netflix and Apple. Now, patients expect these features from healthcare.
Health care tools must keep up with the rise of the Internet, digital devices, portable technologies, artificial intelligence, and even social networking. And, generally speaking, they have. The last few years, particularly with the COVID-19 outbreak, have seen the rise of telehealth (also referred to as telemedicine), where patients can now receive health care over the phone or the internet.
An assortment of new apps and services offer health care tracking, virtual consultations, and individual, patient-centered treatment plans. Large parts of the country still don’t have quality health care options nearby, predominantly rural and economically-disadvantaged areas. But thanks to telehealth, patients can see doctors from any location, including at home, instead of traveling hours for health care, or worse, skipping treatment altogether.
Telehealth has sped up the entire health care process; patients can see the results of exams and tests by logging into a patient portal, communicating with their doctor through email, and instantly passing on their files if they want to change doctors.
Investments from private individuals like myself are also changing healthcare going forward, as they typically have a more patient-centered, personalized care approach. Ultimately, this improves the industry as a whole, primarily as it exists now in the era of COVID-19.
How is Healthcare Changing due to COVID?
While the modern convenience of telehealth has resonated with younger generations, older generations have different expectations of healthcare interactions, and these newer approaches do not always go over so well.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the flow of systems across every industry, telehealth became more viable for some older patients. Of course, this has not been a sweeping change, but broadly speaking, patients, old and young alike, have been adapting to things like video calls or over-the-phone consultations.
What this means going into 2022 is that patients will rely less and less on nearby hospitals and provider groups and more on these various apps and services. As the healthcare industry evolves and embraces these behaviors, the volume of exchanged information will scale, making it vital that health systems have the infrastructure to create actionable results.
In response to calls, hospitals are increasing their investment in modern, multispecialty clinics to meet new patient demands and, in theory, attract more insured patients and boost revenue.
Previously, different country regions would be home to their unique health systems, which offered various services at different prices, utterly separate from what another hospital or clinic in the next town over might offer. But with the COVID-19 outbreak straining the entire healthcare field, these regional health systems have started to lean on each other more and more.
Small to mid-sized health systems have been partnering/merging for years now, but COVID-19 has caused this process to be sped up significantly. Moreover, national health systems are also moving into regional and local markets through mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships; in just the first half of 2021, 27 different health system mergers and acquisitions were reported, and recent trends hint that this will continue into 2022. For patients and their communities, this means more reliable access to more quality health care coverage at no cost to taxpayers.
What are the Major Challenges Facing Healthcare Today?
Everything so far has talked about the positive ways that healthcare has changed in the last few years and how it will continue to grow in the coming years. That being said, the industry will continue to face issues that are beginning now.
Much has been written about the ongoing labor shortage in the U.S., and the medical field is no exception. Health care professionals are in high demand, but the number of available workers is not keeping pace. Of course, this trend could just as quickly reverse in the coming years as more nurses and doctors complete their respective programs and join the workforce.
The U.S. also has a fast-growing population of citizens aged 65 and older, who will require different forms of healthcare. Luckily, the technological advances mentioned above will be able to make this transition easier for everybody involved.
Health Care Systems in 2022
To bring everything together, some analysts believe that, while telehealth is currently disconnected from traditional health care methods, a “tipping point” is coming soon. As new players in the healthcare landscape move to rapidly close the gaps between their services and those of traditional healthcare enterprises, there will be moments when organizations will have to define their respective positions in their markets clearly.
To answer the question, “how is the landscape of healthcare changing today,” depends on how different health ventures decide to do business. Will they compete head-to-head in different markets, or will they collaborate with competitors? Who will adopt market trends, and who will stay put?
As 2022 grows closer, patients can expect more of what has been outlined above. More mergers and partnerships, more technological advances, more telehealth, and more individual ventures from myself and others like me. For historically underserved communities such as low-income areas, this means more reliable access to more excellent health care.
I have proudly given back to the under-served communities of Houston for years, and I will always strive to fulfill this goal time and time again.