The past year was one of continued change, ongoing challenges and enormous shifts in how care is delivered to patients. Now in 2022, the long-tail impacts of the pandemic persist for millions of people around the world – patients, families and providers alike – leading to significant staffing shortages, increased feelings of burnout, job dissatisfaction and greater turnover.
In fact, in the last quarter of 2021, an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data revealed that hospital employment was down by 94,000 people from February 2020. Another analysis showed that staffing challenges have cost hospitals a shocking $24 billion during the pandemic.
None of this is sustainable, but we aren’t without encouraging indicators of change. While the healthcare industry’s digital transformation continues pushing forward, accelerated by growing adoption of telehealth and digital engagements, we’re also seeing the effects of a stronger digital foundation for the future of healthcare.
As we look forward, here are four trends I believe we’ll see define healthcare in 2022 and beyond.
Trend 1: A crisis of burnout among clinicians will create necessary workflow changes
Clinician burnout is nearly universal. A recent survey found that 98% of clinicians have experienced burnout. This— has profound and well-documented effects on the entire care continuum, from staff well-being and turnover to patient outcomes and financial resilience.
Because burnout has a wide range of causes and different people experience it in different ways, it is a particularly delicate problem to help solve. As more healthcare organizations continue to evolve and adapt their digital transformation strategies, however, we will begin to see many necessary workflow changes emerge.
As we look to the road ahead, technological advancements will remove friction and extraneous, manual tasks from clinicians’ workflows, effectively removing the discrete functions that can contribute to burnout. For example, patient documentation can play a role in exacerbating burnout among providers, despite its critical importance to care. Today we are bolstered by ambient sensing technology that securely “listens” to provider-patient encounters and effectively lets the clinical documentation write itself. Instead of spending two hours documenting every one hour of patient care, providers are free to focus on what matters most: caring for people.
As a result, we will see job satisfaction return, which will also have a positive impact on patient satisfaction and outcomes.
Trend 2: The global shortage of nurses will transform Clinical Documentation Improvement (CDI) programs
In the last two years, nearly one-third of healthcare professionals have considered leaving the profession entirely. And even before the pandemic took hold, the World Health Organization reported a global shortage of nurses.
These challenges have led healthcare executives to sharpen their pencils and focus on doing more with less. In many cases, that means a renewed effort to create and optimize revenue streams and a shift in how organizations approach and manage Clinical Documentation Improvement (CDI) programs.
Accurate documentation that captures and tells a patient’s complete story has always been important. And for many years, nurses have supported CDI initiatives by serving as the vital liaison between coders and care teams. But today’s hospitals are fuller than ever, and when combined with a shortage of nurses, pulling good caregivers away from the bedside is a nearly impossible choice.
Here, too, technology can play an essential role in managing CDI programs. When organizations rely on AI-powered CDI solutions, they can free their skilled care teams to focus on patients while letting powerful automation and collaboration tools lead clinical documentation integrity efforts. At the same time, AI-driven clinical guidance at the point of care can support more accurate documentation up front before they make it to the clinical documentation specialist’s desk.
Trend 3: Strategic partnerships between vendors and health systems will emerge
The healthcare ecosystem is necessarily more interconnected than ever before, and that means health systems must shift how they view technology providers; that is, no longer as vendors but as strategic partners in success. Technology providers have long been able to deliver the strategic guidance, professional services, and even compliance support – areas that are more important than ever as the digital transformation marches forward.
Instead of telling providers what’s needed, health systems will work shoulder-to-shoulder with technology providers, collaboratively solving for a range of challenges that face the healthcare industry. From combating burnout and simplifying provider workflows to mastering telehealth and delighting patients, these partnerships will emerge as essential in the coming years.
Trend 4: New AI use cases will continue to upend the norm
Consider how AI marketplaces have created collaborative, democratized environments for solving many of our world’s toughest (and, truth be told, sometimes silliest) challenges. But when it comes to healthcare, AI is already delivering incredible results that are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
For example, radiologists can take advantage of AI to bring critical services right into their workflow: from machine learning image analysis that automatically detects, measures and characterizes suspected Covid-19 findings to workflow prioritization for intracranial hemorrhage cases – and so much more.
Although it appears to accelerate every day, we have only just begun to see the full potential of AI for transforming healthcare. In the coming year, AI will find even more game-changing use cases.
Stay ahead of the curve in the coming year
The pandemic has intensified the challenges facing healthcare. But it has also pushed the digital transformation forward at a much faster pace than many could have ever expected, creating a strong foundation for the future of healthcare.
In 2022, healthcare organizations are in a better position than ever to combat clinician and caregiver burnout, shore up financials and clinical documentation integrity, improve patient outcomes and care quality, and restore the joy to practicing medicine by applying AI to these high-impact problems.
Photo: tonefotografia, Getty Images