This year, we will see a shift in how healthcare organizations utilize digital solutions. Over the last two years, during the pandemic, organizations in nearly every industry adopted digital solutions to address temporary challenges. However, as time went on, many of these solutions proved valuable tools, and attitudes towards digital health have changed significantly. Many leaders have already begun to integrate digital solutions in their long-term strategies to address some of the most pressing challenges in healthcare today, including the current labor shortage, the shift towards consumerism in healthcare, and the health equity gap.
We have recently seen record-breaking numbers of healthcare professionals leave the industry, further increasing the strain on the current workforce. Preventing staff burnout and bringing joy back to healthcare professionals has become a top priority. As we move forward into the new year, many healthcare leaders utilize digital solutions in their workforce planning strategies to unburden their staff.
Streamlining clinical workflows with automation can significantly reduce clinicians' time on routine tasks such as filling out forms, capturing signatures, scheduling, and making phone calls. Automating administrative tasks can save care teams nearly 3 hours a day and improve employee work-life satisfaction by 40 percent (2). Reshaping workflows by automating these tasks gives healthcare professionals time for what matters most, their patients.
In 2021 we initially saw telehealth and home-based care models boom, then moderately fluctuate throughout the year. We learned that both traditional care settings and telehealth are here to stay. Patients now want to receive care in a way that best suits their individual needs. We can expect to see hybrid care models grow in popularity.
Digital solutions can help patients receive care on demand. For example, healthcare chatbots empower patients to schedule their next appointment through SMS. They can fill out appointment intake forms before ever entering the office. Patients can also use symptom checkers to determine whether patients need to schedule a visit through digital triage. These solutions give patients more flexibility in interacting with their providers improving their experience.
Research during the pandemic brought light to the fact that underserved community members still face long-standing disparities in care. These studies share that these communities have higher rates of illness and three times higher death rates than their counterparts. These outcomes are linked to barriers such as limited access to care and increased risk of exposure (2). In 2021 we saw many healthcare leaders begin to take action and leverage technology to close gaps in care.
For example, the Hispanic Health Coalition of Georgia (HHCGA) recently launched its first healthcare chatbot to increase community access to COVID-19 vaccinations. The multi-lingual chatbot allows community members to remotely schedule vaccinations and request transportation assistance while maintaining their privacy. We can expect to see more organizations integrate digital solutions into their health equity strategies in the new year.
The use of digital platforms in healthcare is here to stay in 2022 and beyond. This year we will see organizations continue to adopt digital health solutions to better support staff and meet changing patient needs. However, there will be a significant shift in how these solutions are used. They will no longer be used as bandaids and simple, quick fixes. Healthcare leaders are now thinking more strategically about how they can leverage technology to enhance clinical workflows. Digital platforms will play a key role in addressing long-term solutions to the current industry challenges.
Brittanie is a passionate marketing specialist and content creator from Washington state. She has a background in both education and healthcare. Brittanie enjoys researching, crafting, and sharing stories that highlight how modern technology is transforming the healthcare industry.
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Prior to the pandemic, telehealth visits ─ delivering patient-provider visits virtually ─ was an afterthought in the care continuum — ill-regarded and little-used beyond patients in rural areas who had few care choices. Virtual visits comprised less than 1% of all outpatient visits. Private insurers generally follow guidelines from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which allowed telehealth in only limited circumstances and paid at 30% below in-office reimbursement rates.