As we enter the third year of the pandemic, COVID continues to directly and indirectly define the healthcare industry. Hospital census numbers pushed record highs as staffing challenges persisted. With capacity issues top of mind for so many healthcare leaders right now, we believe that 2022 will be a year where health systems renew focus on the importance of discharge workflows and patient care transitions, and our predictions for the year ahead are a reflection of that.
Staffing Challenges Create Workflow Opportunities
Healthcare staffing was already a challenge before COVID, but that challenge has morphed into a crisis throughout the pandemic. Burnout, fatigue and overall stress has led to an exodus of workers in healthcare, and many of those roles hardest hit have been in key operational patient facing roles like nurses and case managers. In 2022, expect to see more health systems adopt innovative technology solutions, partnerships and virtual staffing models that address workflow challenges with a depleted workforce.
Managing COVID Surges and Hospital Census Trends
Patient volume and caseload mix will continue to ebb and flow as COVID cases fluctuate throughout the year. Providers will have to balance the need to respond to COVID upticks while also treating non-COVID patients. Managing patient flow throughout the healthcare system, especially from acute to post-acute care settings, will be critical for hospitals to maintain operations in and out of future surges. We anticipate a larger role and technology investment in departments that play crucial roles in patient care transitions, such as case management and social work.
Optimizing the EHR
While the Electronic Health Record (EHR) system is the key piece of technology used by nearly every hospital employee, there are still a lot of processes and workflows that happen outside of the EHR that would benefit from being more tightly integrated into the system. Transitioning from an analog to digital workflow where data is captured inside the EHR also presents broader opportunities for identifying ways to deliver better and more efficient patient care. Look for health systems investing in EHR add-ons that consolidate disparate tasks from the patient care journey into the IT system.
Increasing Comfort with Patient Facing Digital Health Tools
The pandemic has increased the use of and comfort with patient facing digital health tools. As virtual care and telehealth become more widely adopted, hospitals will continue to roll out digital tools that reduce the need for in-person interactions and make scarce workers more efficient where appropriate. We’re already seeing indications that this will drive something that has historically eluded digital health – the tech enablement of healthcare for older patient populations where there are tremendous opportunities.
The Bottom Line
Resilience and innovation continue to define what is possible in healthcare. With a challenging year behind us, it’s exciting to see how many health systems are looking for new ways to innovate in the year ahead. Healthcare providers must continue to adapt to remain competitive in this rapidly evolving environment, and we’re excited to be part of that journey.
To learn more about how we’re helping health systems innovate and stay ahead of the trends, click here.