Here’s what’s coming for healthcare in 2023
By Lia Taniguchi | January 12, 2023
With an eye on this innovation trend, a variety of medical thought leaders and athenahealth recently shared where, how, and why they think medicine is likely to change in 2023. Staff retention and job design remain concerns. The ongoing shift to value-based care will require better, more curated data — and patients will expect more visibility and control of that data.
Here are experts’ top four insights:
Staffing challenges will drive thoughtful job design and retention strategies
Hiring and retaining the right workforce continued to be a struggle for healthcare organizations in 2022. Unsustainable workloads and pandemic-related stress have driven clinicians and staff out of the industry, making burnout an even bigger issue for remaining team members. In 2023, those organizations will continue to focus on designing sustainable, innovative, fulfilling jobs and outsourcing as much administrative work as possible — like medical coding, and prior authorization.
Chris Voigt, chief technology officer for Privia Health, shares that sustainable staffing is an ongoing focus for the national physician-enablement network. "We are always working to make sure you have a star team, they're seated and staying, and everybody is happy and contributing.”
One possible strategy to address burnout and retain staff is to lean into team-based staffing models, says Jessica Sweeney-Platt, athenahealth’s vice president of research and editorial strategy. “Team-based care not only can make an enormous impact on provider job satisfaction through task delegation and increased communication – it can also contribute to building a sense of community and belonging, which are crucial to increasing engagement and preventing burnout.” The athenahealth 2021 Physician Sentiment Survey confirms this belief, showing 87% of respondents said team-based strategies are an essential part of patient care.
Another strategy is for technology enhancements to take on some of the work that healthcare organizations can no longer address by hiring more staff. Further steps will be made in this direction as health IT partners find ways to differentiate their solutions by automating more tasks and streamlining delegation. Jon Hofer, chief information officer at Unified Women’s Healthcare, sees an opportunity in 2023.
“The whole industry is dealing with labor challenges and labor shortages. But there's also an opportunity — how do you get someone working to the fullest capability of their licensure and having the biggest impact? Can we make it smarter, have Care Center Teams evaluate how they can do more without added stress or resource strain? I think that's an opportunity for the automation, an opportunity for technology to make a difference.”
Telehealth will be deployed in ways that enhance the care continuum
Telehealth expanded exponentially in 2021. In 2022, healthcare organizations settled into patterns of usage that complemented in-person visits. Data from the athenahealth network show that telehealth is particularly useful for patients with chronic conditions, allowing them more frequent check-ins and wraparound support. Additionally, the data show that telehealth is offering a critical access point for mental health support. In 2023, the expectation is that healthcare organizations will continue to refine the way they target virtual care offerings to extend and enhance the continuum of care.
With the recent Congressional decision to extend telehealth reimbursement and flexibilities through 2024, healthcare organizations can confidently continue their expansion of telehealth services. According to Joe Ganley, athenahealth’s vice president of regulatory and government affairs, “This is a huge win for telehealth advocates and provides greater predictability for physicians who have already built telehealth into their practices.”
Many healthcare organizations will be looking for more innovative ways to use virtual care to expand access and care continuity. Holzer Health System of Southeastern Ohio imagines telehealth as a way to provide “on-demand” urgent care. “We are using athenahealth’s self-scheduling capability to allow patients to self-schedule video visits for urgent care,” says Scott Davis, M.D., Holzer’s chief medical information officer. “Our urgent care will not only be able to see in-person visits on demand, but also patients who want to be seen via video on demand.”
Value-based care adoption will ramp up, requiring even better access to data
Many healthcare organizations say the continued transition to value-based care will once again be a major focus in 2023, especially as inflation squeezes fee-for-service pricing models. “I think the shift to value-based care is going to be huge,” says Carol Ann Hudson, clinical director of population health at Lifepoint Health, a leading diversified healthcare delivery network.
She believes a lot of that continued momentum will be driven by increased adoption by payers. “I attended a recent Nashville Health Care Council meeting focused on value-based care and all the speakers were talking about the predicted shift into value-based care by all the payers,” Hudson said. “The conversation centered around how payers want to partner and have provider organizations take on downside risk – but then they're willing to share some of the reward. I think that's where the biggest opportunity lies.” Furthermore, Hudson believes this shift will be accelerated by new standards for Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) APIs that will drive more accurate and easily reported quality metrics.
Voigt agrees that the ability to identify and exchange more accurate data is going to be crucial to the expansion of value-based care, moving the bar up in 2023. “Moving into full-risk opportunities, that puts a lot more pressure on the system and the platform for accuracy, timeliness, getting more and more and more and more data. That's where we're headed.”
With inflation such a pivotal issue in 2022, value-based care may be the only sustainable future business strategy, especially for small and medium practices. Chad Dodd, athenahealth’s vice president of product management, shares that the only healthcare growth that is happening right now is in value-based care. “The only way to stay viable is to adopt value-based care programs, whether it’s quality or shared savings or capitation, they allow [practices] to cover the medical inflation. Providers will shift to value-based care, or they’ll be forced out.”
Patients will be more engaged, and expect more control of their healthcare data
The 21st Century Cures Act that recently went into effect will allow patients expanded access to their medical record and other health information. In 2023, more patients are likely to begin taking advantage of this access to demand more medical data from providers. And ecosystem partners like athenahealth are working hard to seamlessly integrate all patient data natively into the EHR, regardless of its source. Dodd points out that this can also mean information being auto-released to patients — information they’ve never seen before, like lab results and clinical notes. “We’re going to see the real answers (as) to how patients and providers will interact” as they reach out for help interpreting and understanding all this information.
The result will be a trend toward “patients taking accountability for their care and becoming more engaged,” says Ashley Tupper, a nurse practitioner at Hometown Medical in Wyoming. She hopes this movement will encourage their largely rural population to take advantage of patient portals in more diverse ways. “They go to the senior center, they use all sorts of different ways to get on the portal that we never thought of before,” Tupper explained. “And we get a lot of messages through the portal, and [medication] refill requests. We were excited to see our community become really engaged and feel more accessible.”