It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. While the 160-year-old “A Tale of Two Cities” wasn’t written with healthcare of the 21st century in mind, there are a lot of exciting innovations and difficult challenges that the industry is currently facing.
After two long years of a tragic and disruptive worldwide pandemic, two outcomes have been presented. The first: COVID-19 spurred a number of unprecedented digital health innovations regarding how patients can receive and consume care and enhancements to connectivity and security that are crucial to keeping patient data safe. The second: A much harsher light has revealed many inefficiencies in the global healthcare delivery system and exposed all the ways social structures can adversely influence health outcomes.
The next step in healthcare evolution
Now that enough time has passed since the onset of the pandemic, healthcare professionals are wondering how to start addressing the next decade of challenges and opportunities within the industry. In the words of HIMSS CEO Hal Wolf, “What will we do to reimagine health together?”
Last week at the 2022 HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition, a crowd of healthcare, information and technology professionals congregated to identify the most pressing trends in healthcare. With an agenda stretching far and wide with different topics and priorities, these were the top 5 trends that were covered during the week.
1. Closing the divide: Achieving health equity with innovation and collaboration
The most insistent question coming out of the conference asked how we can create global health equity. Defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), health equity is achieved when everyone can attain their full potential for health and well-being. The pandemic showed just how social determinants (food insecurity, access to education and aging) and structural determinants (race and gender) of health need to be addressed—now more than ever.
Achieving health equity requires fundamental changes in our current healthcare ecosystem, otherwise “we leave intact a fundamental environment that is going to be susceptible to all the risks we had before,” said Wolf. Technological advances seem like a proponent for good in healthcare, but in reality, they can contribute to inequality as it only widens the digital divide for those who don’t have access to things like smartphones or the Internet to access services they need.
It’s a difficult and complex challenge to solve for, so experts suggest that the first way to address it is by making it a priority—by turning pledges into action. Encourage collaboration across the public and private sector to create industry-wide solutions. And adopt ever-evolving technologies and information systems that can ensure that no community or specific population is left behind.
2. Don’t settle for today: The ever-changing landscape of digital health transformation
“Technology is changing healthcare every minute,” said HIMSS22 keynoter Ben Sherwood, former co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group. “The pace of change over the next five years, let alone the next 50, is going to be breathtaking. And yes, we still don’t know all the ways that the pandemic has disrupted and will disrupt the world.”
Digital transformation in healthcare is a well-known megatrend. Embracing innovative technologies is essential for healthcare organizations to stay highly functional for future years to come. At the same time, digitization is a continuous process that requires constant refinement. The industry must continue to raise its digital trajectory and stay open-minded to the next generation of tools and capabilities.
3. Protecting patient safety: The need for cybersecurity
The healthcare industry faced a 755% increase in ransomware attacks in 2021, according to the 2022 Cyber Threat Report by SonicWall. At HIMSS, cybersecurity was a clear priority with a whole area dedicated to the Cybersecurity Command Center, full of interactive, hands-on activities and educational sessions for enhancing knowledge around today’s biggest cyber issues.
Here, challenges within the current approach to cybersecurity were faced head on, and advice was shared to help organizations implement a security posture that could sufficiently protect against ransomware, DDOS and zero-day attacks. Experts shared key strategies and approaches to adopt next-generation cybersafe structures to get ahead of the bad actors. Attendees left with the message that cybersecurity must be embedded into all decisions.
One powerful solution that is breaking into the industry is called SASE, short for Secure Access Service Edge. SASE is able to converge networking and security solutions into one, and is able to drive innovation for healthcare providers by delivering highly secure and efficient experiences for their end users. SASE offers a range of benefits to healthcare providers, including reduced exposure to security risks and faster access to mission-critical applications for users away from the central location (e.g., a hospital building).
4. Telehealth and beyond: The evolution of virtual care
The next decade of healthcare will witness the seamless integration of physical and digital healthcare environments, making care more patient-centered by bringing resources to the patient instead of the other way around. A Senior Analyst at Forrester, Natalie Schibell, spoke at HIMSS, saying that by 2030, “hospital at home will become the principal care setting.”
Care shifting to the home is a prime example of how healthcare is evolving to meet the needs of patients, wherever they are. Windstream Enterprise customers, like Akumin, are tackling this by giving rise to white-glove concierge experiences that help healthcare consumers become more active participants in controlling their health. Transformative technologies will continue to pave the way for a new era of technology-driven, patient-first healthcare solutions.
5. Leveraging AI: Creating better outcomes for all
Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) are full of possibilities that can fix some of healthcare’s biggest challenges. Yet, as discussed by healthcare experts at the conference, most use cases for AI in healthcare have only been seen to support businesses without fundamentally changing the experience for patients.
It seems as if the industry is missing out on AI’s revolutionary potential to reshape our healthcare system by directly serving patients and putting them back at the center of care. At HIMSS22, leaders discussed how it’s time to rethink what AI can do in medicine by engaging in user-centered design driven by patient needs. Patients should be involved in defining problems so tools can be developed to solve them.