The pandemic and other challenges including provider burnout and ongoing workforce shortages have forced the healthcare sector to reframe when it comes to the old ways of doing things. Healthcare providers are exhausted, organizations are strained, and manual and outdated processes continue to fuel the fire. We’re single-handedly keeping the fax from extinction. The patient landscape is also changing. From the patient side, they want access to personal data, they want easier and better ways to make healthcare appointments — essentially, they want to drive the process a bit more, play a more engaged role.
And with these transitions come opportunities to improve our sector. Here are a few trends we’re going to keep an eye on in 2023.
Today you can go into almost any grocery store and buy what you need to make dinner that evening as well as get your flu shot and bivalent booster dose. We have the capacity to buy and shop for healthcare as easily as we buy groceries and back-to-school clothes for our kids. Look at Amazon’s online pharmacy, their acquisition of One Medical, not to mention massive plays by CVS and Walgreens to accelerate their presence in primary care and home health. There are some big benefits here — easier access to care for more people, less time waiting around trying to get appointments, and essentially healthcare on demand. It’s also important to consider the cons — we may lose those longitudinal relationships clinicians build with patients over time; patients may see a different doctor each visit; and it will be critically important for technology to keep pace with the demand.
Clinician burnout and the staffing shortages in healthcare sadly were very prominent before the pandemic. However, the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated an already problematic issue. It’s become clear that physicians need more flexibility and autonomy in how they practice medicine. In the coming years, we expect to see this role change. Doctors will not be limited to practicing within the four walls of a clinic. We may even see locum tenens pick up speed. For those unfamiliar, a locum tenens is a substitute physician who fills in when a doctor is absent for an extended period of time or when one is needed. Our CEO and founder, Dr. Kirk Heath, wrote a great article for Physicians Practice in August talking about how his career didn’t necessarily fit into the traditional model: “I practiced as a locum tenens surgeon for 10 years — I needed flexibility when I was launching my technology company, but I also genuinely enjoyed not being tied down to a brick-and-mortar practice.” Technology will also play a crucial role in allowing this flexibility in a functional way.
Patients access a lot of their healthcare needs online. They receive texts regarding prescriptions, download apps for doctor appointments, and interact with all of our healthcare data online. As patients use more applications and increase their digital presence as it relates to healthcare, we can expect to see security and privacy play a greater role — for both the larger healthcare companies as well as on a personal level for patients. According to a report released at the beginning of the year, “Compromised medical devices and data systems can result in the rescheduling of appointments and surgeries, the diversion of emergency vehicles and shutdowns to care units or even entire organizations. These attacks pose a particular risk in part because many health organizations have not implemented sufficient security measures to anticipate them.”
These are corporate healthcare issues but also personal. Cyber attacks do happen and are an unpleasant yet largely unavoidable issue as our healthcare world becomes increasingly digital. It’s critical going forward that healthcare organizations have a plan in place for if something does happen. “Responding to these risks requires not only a robust security program to prevent attacks from reaching critical devices and systems, but also a plan for maintaining patient care when they do,” according to a report from the ECRI Institute.
There is definitely a pattern that innovation and technology will continue to be big players in healthcare in 2023 and beyond. Provider credentialing is an essential component of healthcare, period. If a doctor or nurse is not credentialed, they can’t work. However, many healthcare organizations are still credentialing providers manually, and this will present a challenge as other areas of healthcare become more automated and digital. The shift to telemedicine spurred by the pandemic helped relieve some of the pain points of credentialing but certainly not all and not permanently. Antiquated credentialing processes that involve Post-it Notes on file cabinets and Excel spreadsheets will not cut it. It simply delays physicians and nurses being able to work (at times up to 120 days) and see patients when and where they are needed.
Modernized credentialing solutions greatly reduce the time providers can start working and ensure data is updated and easily accessible and sourced in real time. Unfortunately, the pandemic isn’t going anywhere, and the need for healthcare workers is growing. Healthcare organizations can save a lot of time and headaches going forward by embracing a technology-forward credentialing process.
The trends we expect to see next year (and in the coming years) are heavily centered around technology and innovation. However, it’s critical that these innovations are focused on alleviating administrative burdens and supporting (not getting in the way of) the human side of patient care.