As the healthcare industry emerges from the pandemic, its leaders are embarking on a major reboot of their priorities in order to improve the delivery of patient care.
That is one of the big findings of the Future Health Index 2022 report, entitled “Healthcare hits reset: Priorities shift as healthcare leaders navigate a changed world.” This seventh annual edition of the report from global technology vendor Philips analyzes feedback from nearly 3,000 healthcare leaders across 15 countries on the impact of digital health technology in the adoption of connected care. (Click here for the U.S. edition of the report. Click here for the global edition.)
Many healthcare leaders are refocusing on both new and existing priorities, from addressing staff shortages and extending care delivery to leveraging big data and predictive analytics, revealed Jan Kimpen, chief medical officer at Philips.
Urgent need to address burnout
Staffing challenges in healthcare are well-publicized. In January 2022, 20% of U.S. hospitals reported critical staff shortages, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, while a recent Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post poll found that around three in 10 healthcare workers had considered leaving their profession.
One of the biggest factors driving these challenges is staff burnout. More than half of all healthcare workers are experiencing burnout that, when not addressed, is causing many to leave the industry, the Future Health Index 2022 says.
Staff satisfaction and retention was a priority for 11% of U.S. healthcare leaders in 2021, but a priority for 29% in 2022, according to the report.
Technology helping overburdened staff
Understanding the pressures on their staff, U.S. healthcare leaders also see how technology can help alleviate them. They know the toll the pandemic has taken on their staff, as well as the competing opportunities available to healthcare professionals.
They also see the value that telehealth and AI can offer in terms of achieving the quadruple aim, specifically in improving the staff experience, the report said. Leaders understand that technology can transform the staff experience, from reducing workloads to increasing time with patients and allowing collaboration with specialists around the world – all factors that can reduce burnout, the report said.
“Ultimately, we see healthcare leaders embarking on a reset to meet the demands of a fundamentally changed world – a world they hope to shape and improve with the help of data and predictive analytics.”
Jan Kimpen, Philips
Their investments in technologies, such as telehealth and AI, can alleviate the burdens faced by healthcare professionals, as can partnerships which deliver these services to staff, the report found.
22% of U.S. healthcare leaders are investing in artificial intelligence today to optimize operational efficiency, 17% to integrate diagnostics, 15% to predict outcomes, and 15% for clinical decision support, the report said.
The need for peers and solid vendors
Peers and health IT vendors can help deliver much-needed expertise. Building on the collaborative experiences they forged during the pandemic, U.S. healthcare leaders recognize that addressing the human capital crisis relies on partnerships, the Philips report stated.
Peers are the top choice of partner U.S. healthcare leaders place significant value on what they can learn from their peers. Today, 38% say that other hospitals and healthcare facilities would be the external partner of preference to help them fully utilize data.
These types of peer-to-peer collaboration offer the potential for staff to learn from other specialists and for facilities to share resources, both of which can help to address burnout, the report said.
As for health IT vendors, the top preferences among U.S. healthcare leaders for what strategic work with a healthcare technology company would provide include: flexible payment models, 30%; access to innovative technologies and expertise, 29%; integration of technology within my hospital/healthcare facility, 29%; strong strategic vision on the capabilities health systems will need to thrive in the future, 28%; resources and/or services to expedite implementation and adoption, 28%, the report found.
Cementing the value of telehealth
In the Future Health Index 2021 report, U.S. healthcare leaders’ top priorities were heavily focused on using core technologies like telehealth to address clinical and operational challenges they were facing due to the pandemic.
Two-thirds (65%) identified “facilitating a shift to virtual or remote” care as their top priority. To enable this, 89% of healthcare leaders were investing in telehealth. Reflecting this, the use of telehealth has grown significantly.
A study by consultancy firm McKinsey & Company revealed while usage has reduced somewhat as the pandemic recedes, telehealth still accounts for 17% of all healthcare appointments – 38 times greater than pre-pandemic usage – with some areas of care, like mental health, continuing to grow.
Access to care for health equality
U.S. healthcare leaders identify several types of initiatives to address health equality in their communities, according to the report.
By far, the most prominent initiatives relate to the provision of care – “increasing access to care” and “providing care in the community.” This aligns with extensive research from the National Vital Statistics System showing that in most states, African Americans and American Indian/Alaska Native people are more likely than white people to die early from conditions that are treatable with timely access to high-quality healthcare.
25% of U.S. healthcare leaders say they have initiatives in place to improve health equality by increasing access to care, 24% by providing care in the community/community outreach, 17% by promoting community education, 16% by generating financial support for underserved communities, and 11% by identifying collaborative partners, the report said.
The Future Health Index 2022 paints a picture of a sector that has seen dramatic transformation in recent years, which has accelerated rapidly over the past 12 months, Philips Chief Medical Officer Kimpen said.
“Rather than continuing to focus solely on the pandemic, we see today’s healthcare leaders radically shifting their priorities to meet new norms in medical management,” he said. “Specifically, leaders have indicated three key priorities for 2022 and beyond: addressing the human capital crisis, continuing with digital transformation to improve interoperability and fully unlock the potential of healthcare data, and closing the healthcare equality gap and prioritizing sustainability.”
All things considered, the U.S. healthcare industry has taken stock and reprioritized in the wake of another year of transformations, and against a growing backdrop of complex challenges that will endure far beyond the pandemic, from staff shortages and security threats to the exponential rise of chronic diseases, he added.
“Ultimately, we see healthcare leaders embarking on a reset to meet the demands of a fundamentally changed world – a world they hope to shape and improve with the help of data and predictive analytics,” he concluded.
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Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
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