April 14, 2022 | Lynn Schear
Transforming the future of healthcare doesn't slow down, and it certainly never stops. In an industry that's always innovating, there is no ultimate promised land or time to rest on past laurels. There's only improvement and adaptation. Throw in a two-years-and-counting global pandemic, and the state of healthcare is in more flux than ever to address a multitude of pressing needs.
But, with new technology and innovation happening not only by the day, but by the hour – even seconds – new trends are evolving faster than ever to help patients live happier, healthier lives.
Let's look at five healthcare trends for 2022 (and beyond) to see how the industry is currently adapting to a new state of normal post pandemic while also keeping an eye on the future state of care.
Implementing telemedicine to increase access to healthcare
Telemedicine, remote health, or virtual care – whatever name you want to give it – has seen a massive uptick since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. So big, that the CDC states telehealth visits during March 2020 increased 154% from the same time period in 2019. When the world shut down, virtual care was essential to the continuation of administering and prescribing care to patients. Now, what was once seen mostly as a solution to the lockdown from the pandemic is being looked at with vast future opportunity, offering more convenient care options for patients as well as the only care option for those living in remote regions without access to a hospital or extended care.
By expanding access to medical treatment and prescription, virtual health is quickly redefining what and how care is delivered. In a world where half the population doesn't have access to essential care services, according to WHO, telemedicine is paving the way for the future of care for everyone.
Using wearable technology to help diagnose and treat patients
If you look down at your wrist, there's a good chance you've got a wearable on it right now. It's no surprise. Smart wearables like Fitbit, Apple Watch and many others have been popular for several years now, collecting vast data on how often we move, the number of steps we take per day, what our sleep cycle is like, our average resting heartbeat – the list goes on. However, it's one thing to simply collect all those years of an individual's raw data. It's another thing to do something with it. And that's what health systems are looking to capitalize on to better treat patients in a more proactive manner.
According to the CDC, mobile health technology implemented based on science can greatly empower people to be engaged participants in their own care and improve their own overall well-being, preventing certain needs for care and ultimately saving lives.
What makes the timing for wearables even more pertinent is their cohesion with the surge of virtual care. For the first time, providers can get real-time data from their patients via wearables and then have consultations with them to discuss treatment plans and prescriptions, all without having to step foot inside the doctor's office.
Extending the realm of reality for better care
Extended reality (XR) is an umbrella term for virtual (VR), augmented (AR) and mixed reality (MR) devices. XR devices are composed of headsets or lenses that alter our perception of the world – either placing us in a fully virtual realm or overlaying virtual elements into our actual reality. What makes this technology so monumental is its use in transforming applications in healthcare.
Currently, VR headsets are being used by doctors and surgeons for training purposes, getting them as up close and personal as possible with the human body, yet without the risk or necessity for cadavers. However, that's just a start. VR is also being used to treat children with autism, aiding their social and coping skills while also assisting with chronic pain, anxiety and more under a controlled environment.
There are also several healthcare applications being implemented for AR initiatives as well. For example, AccuVein is a system created to detect the heat signature of blood flow in a patient's arm, helping clinicians easily locate veins and arteries for setting lines or administering injections.
Ensuring greater healthcare equity with social determinants of health
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines social determinants of health as, "the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life." In other words, SDoH comprise nonmedical factors and drivers that shape the conditions of daily life while highlighting health inequalities in communities across the world.
For a closer look at how this inequality plays out in real life, imagine a scenario where someone doesn't have access to transportation. Without a readily available means to travel, that person most likely won't have access to grocery stores with healthy food options. As a result, that person probably won't get the nutrition they need from a quality diet. That single environmental chain reaction then raises the risk of future health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and/or obesity. So, even though it's not a medical condition on that patient's particular record, SDoH scenarios like this one can play a large part in a person's overall wellness, or lack thereof.
It's up to healthcare providers and human resources organizations to work together to close the gap on the inequalities of SDoH and improve overall health outcomes for patients and their communities everywhere. Read more about how SDoH provides an insight to inequality in our current healthcare system.
Addressing clinician burnout and mental health struggles
One of the biggest health trends in 2022 – and moving forward – doesn't revolve around patients at all, but rather clinicians and other hospital staff. Why? Because our hospital workers, more than ever, need their own care and support system to help battle increased burnout, fatigue and mental health struggles.
Clinical working conditions have always been challenging for healthcare workers. It's a high-volume, high-stress job where people's health and lives are on the line every single day. And then, COVID-19 hit and exacerbated an already intense workplace to off-the-charts proportions. Despite the reduction in the number of cases and the severity of virus variants, thanks to the multiple vaccines, the physical and mental damage to our clinicians has already been done. Challenges like increased workload in the face of short staffing, a shortage in personal protective equipment, and the risk from a highly infectious disease, among many other trials from the pandemic, have caused something similar to a post-traumatic stress disorder for clinicians around the world.
As a result, health systems need to work to keep not only patients safe, happy and healthy, but their invaluable clinicians and hospital staff as well. That's why more health institutions are implementing a variety of self-care practices, proactive prevention measures and interventions (mood boosters, etc.), and long-term mental health support initiatives and courses, such as WHO's Self-Help Plus (SH+), a stress management intervention program.
As the healthcare industry continues to evolve with record-breaking strides to meet growing demands, new technology, medicine and data will all continue to play a big part in creating change.
And among all of those trends, none might be as important as data. With massive amounts of raw data backing several of 2022's healthcare trends, it's also more important than ever for businesses selling to the healthcare market to have the right data intelligence and insight to stay competitive. That's where MCH can help. With more than 2 million contacts, our updated, affordable healthcare database is compiled from leading industry sources, giving you the confidence to thoroughly explore ownership, provider specialties and an expanded list of care centers, labs and other health organizations for any and all of your marketing needs.
Tell us, what are some of the biggest healthcare trends you're looking forward to?
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