If the past three years have shown us anything, it's that healthcare organizations are capable of rising to the occasion in even the most trying of circumstances.
But if pandemic-era pressures have eased a bit, their aftereffects are still being felt as we move into 2023. Hospitals and health systems are grappling with a perfect storm of financial and operational challenges, even as the clinical and population health imperatives remain.
Add to this mix: new interoperability requirements, the ongoing push away from fee-for-service, fast-evolving data modeling hurdles, an industry-wide workforce shortage, pervasive cybersecurity threats and a shift toward home-based care. The challenges are many, but technology can help.
We asked business leaders from a handful of health IT vendors what they see when they look toward the year ahead. Here's what they had to say.
"Patients – as consumers – expect healthcare to work just like everything else in their personal and professional lives," said Mudit Garg, CEO and cofounder of Qventus, which develops AI-enabled care automation tools. "They're used to highly efficient experiences enabled by AI and automation, such as personalized recommendations for movies, self-serve flight booking and home automation.
"Now, leading hospitals are adopting similar technologies that enable them to improve their care operations, creating more timely access to surgical care and reducing discharge delays, for example," he added.
"In 2023, patients will become more aware of the performance gap between hospitals and providers in their local area who offer highly efficient care through automated operations, and those who do not," said Garg.
Rahul Sharma is CEO of HSBlox, whose platform and tools are aimed to help providers administer value-based reimbursement initiatives. He sees progress being made toward accountable care, but says more needs to be done with data.
"To find sustainable success in value-based care, we need digitized data and analytics at the individual patient journey level," said Sharma. "In order to fully realize the potential of VBC, healthcare organizations need to overcome inertia by transforming their technology infrastructure and processes.
"Artificial intelligence technologies, coupled with machine learning algorithms in a robust data engineering framework that enables to/from integration between systems with this digitized data, are needed in order to make this transition a reality," he said. "In 2023, we will start seeing an increased focus on build/buy/partner type of investments toward technology infrastructure as well as the human capital to make VBC programs a success.
Sujay Jadhav, CEO of Verana Health, which specializes in tools to assess the quality of real-world data, sees the need for similar information infrastructure efforts with regard to clinical research.
"Real-world data, generated by applying advanced artificial intelligence capabilities (machine learning and natural language processing) to electronic health records and other data sources, holds immense potential to transform healthcare research, and ultimately, patient care," said Jadhav. "By combining curated unstructured and structured EHR data with RWD from sources such as claims data and diagnostic imaging data, we can benefit from a more timely and robust view of the patient journey that could unlock deeper insights into disease progression."
In the near-term future, he said, "this will help provide physicians and researchers with the insights necessary to accelerate advanced treatment options."
Artificial intelligence and machine learning applications will be increasingly indispensable as ONC and CMS info blocking and data exchange regulations are brought to bear across healthcare, said Dr. Calum Yacoubian, director of NLP healthcare strategy at Linguamatics, an IQVIA company specializing in natural language processing.
"New interoperability requirements will exponentially increase the volume of data in healthcare, making AI-based technologies must-have tools to accurately assess risk, identify potential gaps in care, effectively manage population health and surface critical social determinants of health," said Yacoubian. "As we continue to move to value-based reimbursement models, there’s an increased need to manage the health of patients with chronic conditions, as well as identify and tackle disparities across patient populations and deliver more effective and equitable care.
"To efficiently identify rich information from EHRs – much of which is written in human language in non-discrete fields – we’ll see a greater need for AI techniques such as natural language processing to surface important patient and population insights," he added.
"During the pandemic, health systems that operated in a siloed manner felt the costs of the inability to coordinate operations and share resources in the forms of compressed margins, frustrated staff, and suboptimal patient outcomes – particularly as care expanded outside of traditional settings," says Angie Franks,CEO of ABOUT Healthcare, which helps health systems manage patient transfers.
"As health systems grow and expand to meet the changing needs of patients and providers, they must reimagine patient flow by more precisely operating the levers of demand, capacity and throughput to measure and improve care coordination across disparate settings," said Franks.
"When they start thinking about care orchestration more holistically, they can then create the operational scale that will trigger better utilization of their resources and optimal patient outcomes," she added.
"With rising healthcare workforce shortages and a rapidly growing aging population, we will simply not have enough support available to meet the essential needs of seniors who want to age gracefully at home," said Janet Dillione, CEO of Connect America, which develops connected health technologies for home-based care.
"That is where connective care solutions, such as the traditional as well as innovative personal emergency response services and remote, in-home patient monitoring, come in," she said. "These tools will be coupled with advanced data, AI and the appropriate level of in-home service delivered by an expanding array of care-delivery roles and skill sets."
Josh Rubel, chief commercial officer at MDClone, which specializes in synthetic data and analytics, sees effective information management as keys to success in a fast-evolving environment.
"Healthcare is changing quickly – business models, care delivery methods and market positioning are all in flux," said Rubel. "And provider organizations are facing unprecedented financial pressure, with labor and demand dynamics pushing many systems to rethink strategy, policies and processes.
"In 2023, improving and resetting clinical and financial performance will be the key theme of the year," he explained. "Across healthcare leadership teams, there will be a significant increase in initiatives focused on using healthcare data to identify new revenue streams, optimize clinical capacity and service lines, and find exciting new medical advances. To execute and compete, we will see healthcare providers embrace technology that makes data easily accessible and usable for their teams. Healthcare data and effective, efficient use of that data will be the calling card of successful healthcare performance for the future."