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Look to the future: Trends to watch in healthcare

“Be ready for anything!” This may be the truest statement right now across business, economy, and society overall. And healthcare is far from exempt. In fact, medical practices are among the industries most affected by the rapid changes the world has witnessed in the past two years. So, the ability to adapt predicted and unforeseen change is crucial to maintaining the operations side of healthcare, along with delivering quality patient care.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, how healthcare practices deliver care has dramatically changed. As difficult has been staffing challenges and a significant increase in the clinical content front and back office medical teams require.

Technology, virtual care, supply chain issues, and mental and behavioral health services all have undergone changes that affect how healthcare is delivered today. And this will undoubtedly continue to change in the future.

What does this mean for your healthcare practice? And how can you best engage your practice teams, from administrators to physicians, so they are able and ready to shift in real time to rapid change?

Clinic-ology’s methodology is simple but digs deep.

“Healthcare is known for acronyms, and we use AIM as our acronym of choice: Analyze, Innovate and Manage,” Clinic-ology CEO Marie Stacks noted in a 2021 interview. This process relies on industry best practices matched with the unique needs of your practice for a true partnership to successfully manage current and future changes.

Here, Clinic-ology reviews current and future trends in technology that will affect the delivery of healthcare — and the medical practices and professionals who support it — in some key areas.

Future trends in technology.

Information technology is advancing faster than many practices can implement the benefits they hold. And, while healthcare is responding to the push for the standard use of electronic health records, patient medical registries, and prescribing, these are only the tip of the technology iceberg.

Look to the Future: Trends in Healthcare Technology

Healthcare’s adoption of technology will only expand over the coming decades as these new technologies emerge or grow from their current status:

  • Precision medicine. Also called “genomic medicine,” this analyzes data from a patient’s genetic information, lifestyle and environment to create a personalized treatment plan.

  • Electronic data collection. About 44% of doctors use full or partial EHRs today, up from about 41 percent in 2008, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics recently reported. More telling, though, is that only 6.3% are using fully functional systems. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act required the “meaningful use” of electronic medical records by 2014. However, the definition of “meaningful” continues to expand, and healthcare practices should take note. Practices may benefit from creating a strategic plan to fully convert all patient records and registries to a digital format.

  • Smart phones and devices. While already in use for scheduling and follow-up care, as technology advances, these internet-connected devices will allow for an increased delivery of care in settings outside of a physician’s office, a clinic or hospital.

  • Artificial intelligence. AI is already used by providers and clients, and it will likely prove key in the future for: diagnosis and treatment recommendations, patient engagement and adherence, and administrative activities.

  • Semi-autonomous service robots. This is probably not as far in the future as one would think. In fact, one recent study found 60% of healthcare leaders see robotic process automation (RPA) along with artificial intelligence as driving cost reductions in providing health care. Automation can also be used with a virtual workforce and to streamline staff license retrieval and credentialing. So, practices should start planning now for future implementation.

The future of telehealth and virtual care.

A 2019 Gallup survey found that only 14% of Americans said they had used telemedicine in the past year, and only 17% said they anticipated using it in 2020. But by March 2020 —after the start of the pandemic — 34% of Americans reported having used telemedicine, and 46% said they are likely to use it in the future.

However, Clinic-ology knows that best practices in future telehealth services favor including it as a crucial piece of wrap-around care, not a complete substitute for face-to-face care, as Gallup recently reported.

Despite the current interest in telehealth, the future of healthcare delivery is likely to be omnichannel -- combining telemedicine, retail clinics, on-demand care and more,” the Gallup survey found. “Integrating these channels effectively will also require a significant change in leadership, as well as a more robust change management process to ensure that new technology is utilized optimally.”

The future of mental and behavioral health treatment

With three times as many people reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression now than before the start of the pandemic in 2020, the need for mental health services has increased. Yet throughout the pandemic, patient numbers have dropped for behavior and mental health.

Telehealth is helping accommodate the need for greater mental health services: McKinsey & Co. found that telehealth delivers over two-thirds of mental and behavior health services compared to primary care’s less than 25% delivery rate. And industry experts across the board believe this will only increase in the future.

But there are new delivery models ahead, including:

  • Peer-led services.

  • Home- and community-based crisis care.

  • Targeted outreach.

  • Use of data and analytics to identify high-need patients.

An ever changing supply chain..

“Supply chain issues are here to stay,” Becker’s Hospital Review reported in Nov. 2021. Yet at the same time, industry experts see potentials in cutting costs that will lead to lower prices for medical equipment and pharmaceutical products and increase patient access and practice revenue.

Implementing these best practices now will mean your practice can successfully pivot and shift to adapt to supply shortages and delivery issues:

  • Strongly link supply chain and business strategy.

  • Use segmentation and end-to-end thinking to match supply chain capabilities with the requirements of specific products, markets and customers.

  • Create an agile supply chain to reduce costs and increase responsiveness and flexibility.

  • Invest time and thought into selecting network choices and for supplier management.

  • Don’t shy away from complex solutions when needed.

  • Collaborate with partners to reach new performance levels.

Healthcare is challenging now, and future trends point to future challenges as models of delivery and care continue to change and adapt. How can your practice align itself now in order to adapt and thrive as processes, policies, and standards of patient care undergo sometimes radical change?

Clinic-ology combines current best practices with a firm eye on the future. Our focus on operations and medical office support allows practices to concentrate on providing care, while we partner with you now for a better future.

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