Five Trends to Watch in Healthcare for 2022
By Jeffrey A. Flaks
President and Chief Executive Officer
It has been nearly two years since COVID-19 first appeared and by now, most people have accepted that we are not “going back to normal.” I happen to believe that is a healthy outlook — because the old normal was in many ways unacceptable. We can do better.
At Hartford HealthCare, I’ve been honored and amazed to see the development of programs and services based on that promise. Even now, we are creating a future that is “better than normal” for those we serve, and for those who are called to this caring profession. Here are five broad trends that will only accelerate in the coming year:
Hartford HealthCare added Equity as its fifth value this past year. That decision is more than symbolic. It reflects a renewed commitment and awareness that healthcare leaves too many people behind. The pandemic both underscored this truth by affecting people of color at a greater rate, and provided an impetus for us to act. Our Neighborhood Health initiative represents a fundamental shift in how care is delivered and accessed. No longer can we claim to meet our mission by expecting people to come to us — especially individuals in communities that have been ignored and underserved for generations. We need to meet people where they are, and offer care for the whole person: health needs and social needs; medicine and a means to a better quality of life. This focus on overcoming inequity is paramount to our mission, and we are looking for great and measurable gains in 2022.
The global health crisis led consumers to embrace new ways of obtaining medical care. Virtual visits soared, and patients rightly came to expect the same on-demand access to information and experience they have grown accustomed to in other sectors, like travel. It’s about time we in healthcare make technology a true partner in care. This coming year, expect even more personalized outreaches, such as text messages that alert you to overdue or needed procedures — and easy click-to-call or tap-to-schedule options, with helpful reminders and useful information. We are working to harness the mountains of data we collect and maintain to make care much more personalized; and use technology to make care more coordinated and convenient.
With seven hospitals but more than 430 locations, Hartford HealthCare has long transitioned from an acute-care network to an all-access network. Expect ease of access to continue growing. Yes, “access” means physical buildings like health centers and clinics. But it also means having timely and trusted information online. It means having experts on the airwaves, making sense of sometimes confusing and conflicting health news. Access means listening to a free wellness seminar delivered by a medical expert from your living room, or seeing a healthcare provider right in your neighborhood — where you shop, or worship or near where you work — at times and in places that are most convenient to you.
Healthcare in America is too expensive. That fact has been measured and mentioned for decades now. While high-touch, high-tech, life-saving procedures will never be inexpensive, we must make many forms of care more convenient, less costly and with greater price transparency. This is happening now, with our urgent care centers in many neighborhoods; through virtual visits with providers; with more surgical procedures being performed safely outside the hospital setting; more care in underserved areas; and with price transparency tools like cost calculators. Expect these efforts to accelerate, along with consumer-centric approaches that lower the overall cost of care by keeping people healthy.
What a year. Every industry is buffeted by supply chain disruptions, workplace changes that lead to burnout, social unrest that highlight inequities, and inflationary pressures that challenge personal and organizational finances. Healthcare is no exception, and these challenges will not abate in 2022. “Future-proofing” for us means creating an environment where every individual can contribute to making the changes mentioned above happen. Where every colleague’s contributions, ideas and talents can create a system of care that’s more equitable, more innovative, more accessible and more affordable. That is the only way we can be “better than normal.”