Healthcare was at the forefront of everyone’s mind in 2021. What could the COVID-19 pandemic mean for healthcare in 2022? We put the question to Dr. Shanthy Edward, Palladium Vice President of Strategic Growth for US Health.
She shared her insights into what to expect from healthcare in the next year and the impact on patients, healthcare organizations, and providers alike.
Value-Based and Patient-Centered Care
Historically in the US, according to Edward, healthcare organizations and hospitals were paid by the number of patients they saw, tests they administered, or interventions they staged, incentivizing them to provide more treatments. “Now it’s not about how many tests you order, it’s about the quality of health outcomes for the patient, rather than the quantity of interventions,” adds Edward. “Value-based care isn’t new, but it has been accelerated by COVID-19.” The pandemic revealed how traditional fee-for-service models are vulnerable and the push toward value-based care has been revived with more demand.
Value-based approaches inherently become more patient-centered because they prioritize patient outcomes. With patient voices at the center, Edward notes, “There’s an increased need for transparency, and not only the need for it but the mechanisms that provide it, such as personal health record networks that allow patients to access their own records in real time, to understand the type of healthcare they’re receiving, and to become active participants in their own healthcare choices.”
She notes that this is part of a larger digital shift in giving patients the ability to access care providers through different mediums, such as through telehealth, online booking of appointments, and opening more doors and flexible options for both patients and providers. Empowered and informed patients will necessitate fundamental paradigm shifts for healthcare in the US.
Interoperable Health Systems & Advanced Analytics
Across sectors, COVID-19 highlighted how technologies can enable interactions and create seamless operations despite scattered teams, and healthcare was no different. “The world is increasingly digital,” Edward notes.
“Our healthcare needs to follow the lead of society and if society is more technology-driven, our healthcare should be, too.”
But according to Edward, there’s an opportunity for the sector to make the most of the digital transformation with improved health IT. “The interoperability of electronic health records and the systems that manage data is critical in healthcare.”
“Now more than ever, the ability for disparate systems to interact with each other and get a bigger picture from all of that data means that action can be taken more quickly and decisively on a patient’s care.” Edward explains that currently, while most of healthcare data is already electronic, much of it is siloed and separate, making it difficult to harness information to make life and cost-saving decisions efficiently.
But the requirement for interoperable systems is not the only health technology trend we will see. Technology, she adds, is going to play a critical role in every aspect of health in both the near and far off future.
She predicts that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning solutions will be increasingly in demand to maximize the links between data that’s collected, for the benefit of patientcare. “Computers and algorithms have the power to process data faster and more precisely than people can. As a result, we can discover patterns and intervene to improve public health in a big way if we make way for technology innovation.”
Integrating Equity and Social Determinants of Health
Another critical aspect of a patient-centered approach, notes Edward, is the shift towards integrating social determinants of health into patient care and public health data broadly. “When we think about ensuring equity in healthcare, it’s critical to look at all of the social determinants of health (SDOH) or all of the factors and systems that both affect a person’s health and ability to survive and thrive in society.”
From the effects of racism, degree of economic stability and education access to neighborhood environments and community, social determinants of health have a major impact on people’s health, well-being, and overall quality of life.
Traditionally, health data has been very narrow, with the focus largely on morbidity and mortality, but there’s so much more to human health than that she notes. “When you think about how we’ve defined public health data, it doesn’t really give us a comprehensive picture of people or the ability to address the root of some health problems.”
“There’s a trend in public health towards bringing in more diverse lived experiences and voices into both research and clinical practice,” Edward adds.
This qualitative data is critical in ensuring that equity is embedded into all approaches of healthcare research and data, from the collection and question design to the communication of actionable results.
“In clinical practices, we are seeing this shift as well,” explains Edward. “New clinical screening tools that more comprehensively address SDOH as well as the concept of social prescribing—where health professionals make referrals to appropriate community resources—are emerging as interventions that address health-harming social conditions and can lead to improvements in health overall.”
“We must consider how current models of healthcare contribute to or detract from equitable outcomes and be willing to widen our perspective across society to include all of the things that affect a person’s health. This is one of many actions that need to occur to ensure equity stays at the forefront of patient care moving forward,” she adds.
For healthcare in 2022, it’s all about the patient and Edward is hopeful that an increase in value-based care, digital transformations, and a focus on SDOH in the sector will allow for more patient-centered and equitable patient care. As a result, public health research will increasingly take into account a person as a whole with lived experiences that affect their health, rather than simply a stat on a chart.
Shanthy Edward is a Doctor of Psychology and a strategic growth leader who works within the intersection of business development and healthcare to amplify mission impacts in U.S. Health. Dr. Edward received both her Psy.D. and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology and her B.A. in English and Sociology at the University of Western Ontario. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.