2023 Healthcare Outlook: KJT’s Medical Advisory Council Predictions
As part of KJT’s commitment to providing the deepest, strategic insight to our clients, our Medical Advisory Council (MAC) offers subject matter expertise to our research and consulting engagements.
No doubt, we are in a period of transformation for the healthcare industry. This transformation is reshaping the way care is delivered, accessed, and experienced by patients and providers alike. The healthcare workforce is in crisis, with staffing shortages across multiple sectors straining capacity. At the same time, the pandemic accelerated the adoption of telemedicine and remote monitoring, so patients’ expectations of where and how they receive care is changing. Along with other factors, KJT’s Medical Advisory Council believes this tension will give way to the key trends we anticipate in 2023 and beyond.
Key Trend #1: Jolts in both supply and demand
COVID decimated the healthcare workforce, with high vacancy rates across important functions including nursing, radiology, and phlebotomy. The exodus is expected to continue, severely limiting the ability of health systems to meet patient need, and placing an ever-heavier burden on the staff who remain.
This staffing shortage – along with budget limitations – mean a hospital’s business-as-usual is no longer possible. Prioritization is necessary, with nice-to-have and forward-looking programs being cut in favor of mission-critical ones.
Healthcare systems need a multifaceted approach to address the workforce crisis, including investing in recruitment and retention, improving working conditions, as well as offering flexible scheduling and remote work options where feasible. Health systems will determine how they can further leverage technology to optimize care delivery and reduce the burden on staff. We will likely see additional consolidation and vertical integration. And, we expect procedure volume to continue its migration from in-hospital to other locations: like ambulatory care centers, micro-hospitals, and even hospital-at-home services.
Despite the resource constraints, patients increasingly want care on their own terms. Patients are remotely connecting with providers for visits, accessing their own health records, and communicating in near real-time through patient portals. They also “have immediate availability to a wealth of health-related information on the internet at their fingertips (including both appropriate resources and misinformation).” And because of these advancements, “patients feel more empowered now in [their] health care.” They are turning into true consumers.
Key Trend #2: Impact of Technology
“Telemedicine advanced 5-7 years in a matter of less than 6 months during COVID. This has fundamentally altered the delivery of healthcare and dramatically expanded both services provided via telemedicine as well as patient comfort with it.” We anticipate this trend to certainly continue, making management easier – especially of chronic conditions. However, there are challenges to overcome in terms of ensuring that telemedicine is accessible to all patients, including those who may not have access to technology or high-speed internet.
Advancements are expected in remote patient monitoring, too. “Those modalities and companies who will be most successful in the year(s) ahead must have an agile approach including a solid interface seamlessly connected with electronic health records and health systems and be user-friendly for both the consumer and the health care professionals.” We anticipate a next step in fitness-tracker like technology, wherein an abnormality is flagged for the patient which then connects them with their provider for treatment.
Certainly, excitement – and concern about – AI has been at the fore lately. There is widespread interest in what AI can do to support clinical decision-making and care optimization. Clearly, this would have important implications care efficiency, quality, and perhaps labor-saving initiatives.
And, we expect “Big tech will continue to make inroads into care delivery directly through telemedicine or in the case of Amazon, providing medications.”
Key Trend #3: Next Steps for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
DEI has become an important topic for healthcare organizations in the recent past. Many have embraced the concept, developed policies, and established leadership positions to improve access and care for people of diverse backgrounds. Further, staff recruitment and retention efforts to ensure a diverse workforce are taking shape. And an effort is under way to better appreciate the social determinants of health for the patients being served.
However, true change hasn’t materialized yet. “I honestly only see words, not a lot of action.” Considering the workforce crisis, it’ll be no easy feat to change hiring practices in ways that ensure the staff is reflective of the diverse populations being served. And metrics and ongoing monitoring of success (or failure) in these diverse efforts will remain a significant challenge moving forward.
There is no doubt COVID had a seismic impact on the healthcare industry – one that is still being reckoned with 3 years on. Dramatic changes to supply and demand, the rise and continued promised of technologic advancements – all while ensuring care is inclusive and appropriate for the patients being served – will be key trends we are watching for this year.