This is a very strange time for all of us — especially in healthcare. But it is also a very interesting time, as it gives us the opportunity to see just how much healthcare is changing in all aspects: from internal leadership, to IT, to marketing, to consumer and patient experience. This new year — 2022 — might be the first time we see some real advancements that will take healthcare to a whole new level.
With that in mind, here are my top 5 predictions for the healthcare industry in 2022.
1. Personalization will span everything from individual search to online to in-person experiences
Personalization is not a new concept in healthcare, but it did take a back seat during the pandemic as more systems focused on technology for virtual care and adjusted patient flows.
But the new "talk of the town" of late has been around personalization and personalizing the patient experience. In 2022, I predict this will continue, with organizations starting to understand how every experience is a personal one – not just a from the perspective of a targeted ad buy or "personalized" site content, but also from the moment of a unique diagnosis, to the resources used and consulted to find care, to the type of searches someone makes to find care, to the actual experience in getting care. This year, organizations will start to focus more on how to personalize each individual experience and start to migrate away from persona groups and blanket estimates of how an organization needs to put information out into the world to recruit patients.
2. Data interoperability will continue to be top of mind and more important than ever
Over the last two years, we've learned just how dangerous it is for data to live in silos and for software platforms to lack connection.
This year, 2022, will be the year that IT organizations will better understand the value of data interoperability and will drive massive value for organizations. I predict that we will see them lay out sophisticated data flows and map them according to the needs of various stakeholders — and we will finally see organizations that previously made it difficult to access data finally acquiesce and ensure data access is open for all.
3. We will see a decoupling of primary care from the health system
People may disagree with me on this concept, but seeing the trends in this space, the writing is on the wall: organizations will see clearly how primary care will become decoupled from health systems and how distributed care will need to work.
Many organizations have laid their strategies on primary care driving referrals to specialists within a system, but now we are seeing that these organizations — in addition to Optum, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and others — are looking to move primary care business outside of the primary hospital setting.
As this happens, leadership will talk a lot about the innovation that is happening in the industry, and some organizations will better understand how to work with their strategy teams to build partnership programs. Others will try to ignore it. But with payers and non-HC organizations getting solidly into the primary care space, health systems will take this year to identify what this really means for them and how to react.
4. Payers will more actively move into the consumer space
I used to think that CVS, Walmart and other non-healthcare organizations were the "sleeper cells" of the pandemic. While traditional healthcare organizations were busy dealing with the day-to-day issues of COVID, these other organizations were silently and quietly positioning themselves to start taking share of care from traditional health systems. But even while all this took place, a new sleeper cell emerged – OptumCare – and they quietly started to amass primary care and certain specialty practices — and are now in more than 20 states across the country.
Heading in 2022, we have Optum and United Healthcare blurring the lines of the payer/provider space. We also see CVS and Aetna doing the same in many ways. Humana, Anthem and others are actively engaging in consumer education, virtual care and more. Going forward, payers will give health systems a run for their money – both in providing direct care to the member, but also in further distributing the patient to more cost-effective treatment channels. So, as patients/members/consumers seek care, expect to see them consult Google, payer sites, and also "payviders" to get what they need.
5. Consumerism will no longer be a buzzword, but an expectation
If the last two years have taught us nothing else, at least they showed us just how digitally savvy consumers are, and how expectations have increased dramatically for all experiences.
Healthcare tends to lag behind other digital experiences, but I predict that 2022 will be the year that healthcare organizations will realize that they have to compete for the consumer. Historically, healthcare organizations have been provider-first, thinking about themselves and the skills of their doctors. But with more consumer choice and more people complaining about the poor patient experience online, organizations will now have to think critically about how to provide better access to care and a better consumer experience to boot.
Again, with CVS and other local care options providing enhanced digital and traditional access to care, organizations must think more about how to drive a consumer experience that is on par with Amazon, Google and others outside of the healthcare industry. Even Google is thinking about how to drive a better experience for people searching for healthcare – including adding things on the results page like insurance and virtual care options, and trying to keep consumers from even leaving the Google SERP to find everything he or she needs. Consumerism will be an expectation rather than an exception, and organizations who aren't able to keep up will see loyalty and patient acquisition challenges abound in 2022.
These shifts might seem overwhelming, but they are the culmination of a two-year evolution toward higher expectations for the digital patient experience — as well as the development of new players in the space who can provide it. But if health systems prioritize growth and transformation in these key areas, they will be better positioned to serve patients in 2022 and beyond.
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