2021 has been a challenging year for teams across the healthcare industry. The long-tail impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have persisted for millions, leading to significant staff shortages, increasing feelings of burnout, and creating huge shifts in how care is delivered to patients. And with the Omicron variant causing a resurgence in contraction rates and driving infection numbers up around the world, those challenges appear to be far from over.
Amidst these challenges, it’s also been a year of powerful, proactive change. Digital transformation has accelerated, driven by increased patient and clinician appetite for telehealth and digital engagements. Long-awaited changes have been implemented to improve patient and clinician experiences, and a strong digital foundation has been laid for the future of healthcare.
Now it’s time to look forward. Here are four trends we’ll see ramp up and shape the healthcare landscape in 2022.
Trend #1: The burnout crisis will drive significant workflow changes for millions of clinicians
According to a recent report by HIMSS and Nuance, a huge 98% of clinicians say they’ve experienced feelings of burnout. It’s a trend that’s persisted since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as time goes on, it’s having a major impact on everything from staff turnover rates to critical patient outcomes.
It’s a multi-faceted challenge—one that’s experienced in different ways by different teams and individuals—which has so far made it challenging to tackle effectively. But as healthcare organizations continue to evolve their digital transformation strategies, we will see more focused efforts on removing friction and unnecessary manual work from clinician’s days with the end goal of empowering them to spend their time tackling frontline challenges for patients. As technology continues to advance and workflows evolve accordingly to facilitate that shift, organizations will begin effectively removing a lot of the discrete frustrations that come together to fuel burnout, and we will see a return of job satisfaction, as well as increased patient satisfaction as a result.
In fact, we’re already seeing some powerful new technologies help to reduce reports of burnout by transforming tasks like the documentation of care engagements — giving clinicians greater freedom to focus on the patient. Workflow evolutions like these may appear small on the surface, but they can have a huge impact on clinician engagement and patient satisfaction.
Trend #2: The nursing shortage will transform how organizations manage Clinical Documentation Improvement (CDI)
Unsurprisingly, pandemic-related burnout is also fueling the ongoing global shortage of nurses – driving as many as 3 in 10 healthcare professionals to consider leaving the profession entirely. With more staff leaving the healthcare field than ever and staffing costs surging as a result, thousands of healthcare CFOs have had to quickly shift their focus from revenue stream creation and optimization, to doing more with less. In 2022, we’ll see that shift impact how organizations approach and manage CDI.
As the number of telehealth and other digital healthcare engagements increases, accurate documentation is set to become more important than ever. But, as organizations ramp up their CDI efforts, they can’t take experienced nurses away from the already short-staffed frontlines. We’ll therefore see organizations take steps to augment their CDI teams with powerful new automation and collaboration tools that can help them achieve more and decrease the administrative burden clinicians are under, without creating new roles and diverting skilled people away from the places where they’re needed most.
Trend #3: Relationships between vendors and hospitals or health systems will become strategic partnerships
In days gone by, hospitals, health systems, and other care providers viewed technology vendors as exactly that—companies that supplied the digital tools they were asked to provide. But with the pandemic accelerating the pace of digital change across the healthcare sector to an almost unmanageable level, many organizations are placing greater trust in vendors to help them evolve quickly and intelligently and navigate the future of healthcare.
Within these strategic partnerships, the role of the vendor changes from IT provider to much more of a trusted advisor and dedicated supporter—providing strategic guidance, white glove service and progress reports against specific shared outcomes, however and whenever they’re needed. Instead of waiting to fulfil specific requests, partners work proactively to help guide care providers digital strategies and find creative solutions to emerging challenges like:
- Combating burnout by delivering superior digital working experiences
- Simplifying workflows to help care providers focus on patient outcomes
- Mastering telehealth and developing new best practices for remote care delivery
- Understanding shifting patient preferences and demands, and how technology can help meet them
As partnerships become more important across the healthcare ecosystem, organizations will also look to their partners to help them establish and comply with standards that help them stay flexible and easy to collaborate with, without sacrificing security or privacy.
Trend #4: AI will find more game-changing use cases
AI is already being applied across the healthcare sector, helping teams do everything from accurately capturing and recording data during patient engagements to fully automating non-emergency requests for healthcare information. But we’re only just beginning to see its full potential for transforming care delivery experiences and patient outcomes.
As healthcare organizations and researchers establish strong standards for the secure sharing of healthcare data, new collaborative AI projects are set to deliver incredible results that push the boundaries of what’s possible and drive more informed care decisions based on the latest research information available.
Emerging examples are already demonstrating the power of this collaborative approach. For example, the newly announced Nuance Precision Imaging Network (PIN) showcases how AI can improve collaboration, accelerate decision-making, and ultimately, save lives across the healthcare sector. The AI-powered cloud platform delivers patient-specific data and insights from diagnostic imaging into existing clinical and administrative workflows across the healthcare ecosystem. This is just one example of how secure and efficient sharing of data can help improve decision-making and care outcomes for a huge number of patients in 2022 and beyond.
Stay ahead of the curve throughout 2022
The global healthcare landscape is constantly shifting, with digital change accelerating at an incredible rate. Keep an eye out for our updates throughout the new year to find out how these trends are evolving, and what they mean for patients, clinicians, organizations, and the future of healthcare delivery.
We also want to thank all of those who are in the healthcare sector for all you do to serve your communities, patients, and colleagues.