The healthcare industry has been aware of the opaque transfer of patient information between clinical care teams for many years. Technology can be the answer to both increasing communication between often siloed teams as well as ensuring patient safety. We’ve seen improvements in delivering better care to patients with the use of digital health tools and digitally-enabled care models, but there’s still a long road ahead to ensure that we’re providing quality care to all patients in a sustainable way.
As we look toward the next year, we’re going to see more health systems explore ways to deliver quality care at scale, without increasing burnout of healthcare workers.
The growth of modern technology in the healthcare industry
Today, health systems are grappling with staffing shortages and worker burnout. In a letter sent in March to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the American Hospital Association called the hospital workforce shortage a “national emergency,” projecting the overall shortage of nurses to reach 1.1 million by the end of the year. The impacts of hospital workforce shortages are intensified by extreme burnout. In January, 7,000 nurses at two New York City hospitals went on strike, calling for a labor contract that will require more nurses at the bedside for patients (New York State Nurses Association).
These issues are poised to intensify as health systems are faced with an aging population. According to PRB, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to reach 95 million by 2060 – which is nearly double the last estimate of 52 million in 2018.
Integrating modern technology in the healthcare industry can solve the patient/provider ratio challenge in 2023 and beyond. With digital tools, clinicians can deliver higher-quality care to more patients in less time. This means better patient outcomes through fewer and shorter visits – something that will become increasingly critical as more health systems adopt value-based care. In addition to better experiences for providers, digital tools will also help decelerate burnout, healthcare worker strikes and staffing shortages.
This is all why research projects greater adoption of digital health solutions in the year ahead. AMA Digital Health Research surveyed 1,300 physicians in three regular intervals between 2016 and 2022. The percentage of physicians who feel digital health tools are an advantage for patient care grew from 85% in 2016 to 93% in 2022, and increases were measured across all ages and specialties.
Eliminating traditional silos
While digital health tools present a lot of opportunities, their value is capped if they don’t seamlessly integrate with existing health system solutions and infrastructure. One of the biggest trends we’ll see in 2023 is the healthcare industry prioritizing interoperability and addressing the siloed nature of the market. Often, during the transfer of care from one physician to the next, information can easily get lost. The lack of communication between systems can lead to patient care errors as well as system inefficiencies.
To remove silos, we’ll see more healthcare industry stakeholders prioritizing smoother communications in the year ahead. We’ll see health systems use newer technologies that feed more patient data into electronic medical records, thereby giving all caretakers greater visibility into patient history, which will in turn enable care teams across the continuum to have the insights they need to better — and more efficiently — care for patients. By providing this informed care from the get-go, health systems will subsequently address patient readmission rates and backlogs with greater efficiency.
A generational shift in medical school teaching
Finally, there is going to be a generational shift in the way medical schools are teaching their students as more technology is introduced across care settings. As healthcare becomes increasingly digital, education for the next generation must change too – and medical students are the ones pushing for this. These students’ interest comes from a desire to push medical education forward while also improving care for patients.
In 2023, and for years to come, our healthcare education systems will evolve at the same pace as health tech adoption. Many medical students around the country have made interest groups outside of their standard curriculum to learn more about the growth of certain technology in healthcare. An example of this is Yale’s Critical Care Medicine Student Interest Group, which is aimed to provide clinical and research exposure to critical care teams. This includes hands-on workshops for bedside ultrasounds and more. This year, we will see a generational shift throughout the medical field to equip healthcare professionals with the tools they need to operate the newest technological advancements
The healthcare industry is at an inflection point and 2023 is looking to be a transformative year. While there is plenty of work to be done, there is a great sense that these advances will be highly beneficial to improve outcomes for patients while providing much-needed relief to healthcare professionals.
About the author: Dr. Arun Nagdev is the senior director of clinical education for Exo Imaging, Inc.