As we step into 2024, several trends are set to make a significant impact on the healthcare sector. From advancements in technology to the ongoing issues surrounding healthcare workforce challenges, here’s what we anticipate seeing more of in the coming year.
Perhaps no other topic is as buzzed about as artificial intelligence (AI) and its place in healthcare (among other industries!). AI continues to revolutionize healthcare by enhancing diagnostics, optimizing treatment plans, and streamlining administrative tasks. In 2024, we expect AI to further integrate into various aspects of healthcare. While we expect to see AI continue to offer more precise insights, predictive analytics, and personalized care pathways, we also are expecting to see a greater call for ethical AI and boundaries surrounding its development and use. As an article in Stanford Medicineemphasizes, AI clearly has benefits in healthcare, “But artificial intelligence algorithms also pose hazards: They can misdiagnose patients, fail to identify people at risk of complications or reveal pieces of private information.”
AI can also exacerbate the existing biases in healthcare that impact minorities, women, and other marginalized populations. Standards for evaluating data quality will be key to advance equitable AI, and that may mean pulling the reins a bit.
The complexities surrounding provider credentialing and state licensure have been significant barriers to healthcare access. Yet with the transformations within the healthcare sector — the pandemic, shifts to virtual care, workforce shortages, and retail models of care gaining steam — more flexibility and ease surrounding provider credentialing is mandatory to support this landscape. State licensure compactsaim to ease this burden by enabling qualified physicians and nurses to practice across state lines more seamlessly. In 2024, these compacts are expected to gain momentum, fostering greater flexibility and access to care.
A unified provider credentialing database could help make the process more streamlined. Modio’s Chief Operating Officer, John Bou, wrote in MedCity News, “CAQH research estimates that not automating administrative processes is costing providers about $9.5 million in savings. Additionally, commercial health plans and providers spend at least $2.1 billion annually to maintain provider databases; 75% of those costs could be offset by integrating with an external source of truth, if that existed.”
One of the most pressing challenges in healthcare is the ongoing workforce shortage. There are many factors contributing to the staffing crisis — turnover rates are high, burnout rates continue to grow, and an aging population coming into Medicare is putting even more pressure on care consumption. Locum tenens (essentially, temporary physicians), for example, have been gaining traction as a potential solution to staffing shortages. “Locum tenens can be a part of this flexibility-building, acting as a release valve for burnt-out physicians to continue practicing and healthcare organizations to fill critical gaps,” writes Leslie Snavely, president of CHG Healthcare, in Medical Economics. “A recent studyfound that 32% of healthcare facilities plan to use locum physicians more often…with 40+% of facilities stating that ‘meeting rising patient demand’ (42%) and ‘supplementing staff during peak periods’ (41%) are key reasons — those variables just can’t be managed with only full-time staff or outsourced staff contracts.”
Efforts to attract and retain healthcare professionals, as well as continued innovation around solutions like task shifting, technology-enabled care, and more flexible working options for physicians, will remain a priority in the years to come.
The pandemic catapulted virtual care into the spotlight, and despite an initial decline, its use is expected to grow in the coming years; the American Medical Association predicts services will build slowly over the next several years to reach levels attained during the pandemic. Federal agencies are helping to widen access to these services. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services has made permanentsome of the administrative steps it took to expedite telemedicine adoption during the pandemic, i.e., Medicare patients now can receive telehealth services for behavioral and mental healthcare in their homes, and they can receive a wider range of telehealth services in their homes through December 31, 2024.
One of the biggest lures to virtual care remains better access and the ability to address healthcare concerns before things get more serious, ideally keeping patients healthier and out of the hospital, as well as enabling them to be more engaged with their own healthcare. We’re excited to see how an uptick in virtual care adoption can potentially drive a shift toward standardization among payers, accelerate reimbursement processes, and ultimately enhance provider-patient care.
Every year brings a multitude of healthcare predictions, and the points above merely scratch the surface of what we’re keeping a close eye on at Modio. What significant trends do you anticipate will shape our sector in 2024? Comment below!
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