While the past year may have been the hardest one yet for the American healthcare industry, it did spur a lot of great changes for the sector. 2020 led to the rapid adoption of trends that were just coming to the fore in the industry, such as a greater focus on mental health and the expansion of telehealth. Here are some of the healthcare trends we can expect to become more prominent this year:
Greater Focus on Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being
With the pandemic posing a great threat to the mental wellness of most people, the focus on it grew tenfold these past few months, and rightly so. This then resulted in the emergence of new virtual programs that are aimed to help many to cope during these trying times. Examples of such applications include Talkspace and Mental Health America. While Talkspace allows users to constantly communicate with professionals, Mental Health America helps people have a better understanding of mental illnesses.
Expansion of Telehealth
If the past year underscored the potential of telehealth, 2021 will likely bring it to the mainstream and expand its capabilities. This year, we can expect telehealth to be used in the care management of chronic diseases, as well as in the delivery of mental health services. However, for that to be a success, the demand for telehealth nurses must first be fulfilled. Nurses will play a greater role in telehealth this year, especially as the nation grapples with a worsening doctor/nurse shortage and a shift towards online training for healthcare professionals.
In recent years nurses looking to upskill have been one of the biggest benefactors of this shift to online learning, especially in terms of digital health proficiency. Students who take online RN to BSN programs are trained in more specialized fields like nursing informatics. This shift to a digitally focused healthcare, both in the hospital and outside through telemedicine, will only increase as more patients get used to this mode of healthcare (something the pandemic has accelerated much faster than predicted). The result of this is more and more certified nurses in telemedicine programs, especially for health monitoring and pre- and post-surgical care.
Emphasis on The Gaps in Health Equity
The viability of telehealth isn’t the only thing that the pandemic has emphasized -- the disparities in the delivery of healthcare too. According to an article by Harvard Business Review, black and brown communities are absorbing a disproportionate percentage of COVID-19-related deaths in the country. Because of how the past year has brought the long-standing systemic health and social inequities into the limelight, healthcare ecosystems are expected to boost their efforts in addressing the gaps in health equity.
Acceleration of Value-Based Arrangements and Insurer Partnerships
With the pandemic spelling great losses for hospitals and other medical facilities, providers may finally jump into more value-based payment arrangements this year. This is great news for payers because it can potentially curb health spending in the country. In addition to this, health systems have also reported how they are currently on the hunt for health insurer deals and partnerships. This new arrangement allows payers and providers to work together to improve the health of certain populations and improve cost savings.
Consumerization of Patients
Aside from turning to a new reimbursement system, hospitals and health systems struggling to recoup revenue will push for the consumerization of patients this year. While this may seem like a downside, this allows them to not only provide personalized care but also answer the growing demands of patients. The senior vice president of HGS Healthcare, Donna Martin said that we will likely see “an increase in alternative and other self-help options that are over-the-counter.” She also mentioned how the use of mini-clinics and ambulatory facilities will be greater than that of larger institutions in the future, due to the convenience and efficiency they offer.
The pandemic may have put a lot of strain on the American healthcare sector, but it can't be denied that it has been an effective tool in encouraging the industry to change up its ways and become more pro-patient. With 2021 turning out to be a year with a greater focus on mental health, emotional well-being and health equity, widespread telehealth use, more value-based arrangements and insurer partnerships, and rapid consumerization of patients, there is a big chance that it will be significantly easier for people to access care in the near future.
Exclusively written for getcompletecare.com by Cristina Webb