THE 2023 Healthcare Trend: AUTOMATION
STEPHEN KEELER | VP, Payer & Provider Sales]
As everyone in Health IT is gathering at JPM, it’s time to ruminate and pontificate on what will dominate the industry in 2023. So here are my predictions, and remember, advice that comes free is often worth as much.
The Impervious Mega-Trends: Like tidal waves coming ashore, nothing can withstand the impact of these trends, and there is little anyone can do try to stop them. It’s no surprise that things that go with the flow by accelerating the good in these trends, or conversely mitigate the bad, will perform well and see success.
#1 The Provider shortage and downstream effects like burnout. The pandemic accelerated this trend, sadly wiping out doctors, nurses and all providers (remember the breakouts in senior living facilities – it wasn’t just the patients who got infected and died) at disproportionate levels relative to the overall population. Those remaining have heavier workloads, and the pipeline of supply of new providers in medical and nursing schools globally is nowhere near the necessary replacement volume, much less able to take care of….
#2 The Silver Tsunami. Every industrialized nation worldwide has aging populations who are driving increasing demand for healthcare each and every day. These patients are ever more connected, educated and empowered, which means they are that much more fussy, demanding and – quite naturally – frustrated if they perceive that their healthcare needs are not being met. Don’t buy the falsehood that Grandma and Grandpa can’t handle technology. They are used to getting what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and you will be washed away if you stand in their way. In the US alone, retirement from the workforce and employer insurance into Medicare coverage of the extremely large (and nobody ever called them quiet) baby boomer generation will dominate demand even further. This will also add significantly more stress to not just hospital and health insurance budgets and conversations, but to those of taxpayers, pensions, and government at all levels. Which in turn brings a renewed focus on….
#3: Sustainability. From the NHS in the UK to Medicare/Medicaid in the US, to the national programs of the EU, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand, the underlying assumptions of healthcare schemes (to borrow the British use of the word) never, ever considered the degree to which their populations would age – and not be replaced. It was relatively easy to fund benefits for one person who hits retirement age if you have 50, 75 or 100 working people contributing into the program for every one beneficiary. Nobody created models for the possibility of the scales being reversed, if you had, say, four beneficiaries for every one contributing worker. This is exactly what we’re facing, and it certainly is not sustainable. Addressing this imbalance, along with the supply and demand mismatch contributing to it from #1 and #2 above, requires, among other things above my pay grade, an accelerated embrace of new payment models and (you saw this coming)….
#4: Automation. Digital is dead. It’s dead inasmuch as anyone thought digitization in healthcare was a valuable goal in and of itself. For example, it won’t take you long to find providers who will tell you that “going digital” only added to their stress and burnout, or mothers who now have to find transportation to a care facility 100 miles away because there are no more obstetricians, gynecologists or pediatricians nearby. Digitization is a complex tactic to achieve…what? Automation in healthcare. If you want to close the gap between the supply of healthcare providers and the demand for healthcare by patients, then, you better be thinking long and hard about what can be automated, where, when, and how. Automation doesn’t replace providers, but it does replicate their ability to give care for all their patients, if done properly. All the buzz about machine learning, AI, genomics, yada yada, is only of true value if it advances the ability of the scarce resource of care supply to deliver both episodic and more importantly preventative care to more people at a lower per unit cost. The proven, tried, and true, way to accomplish this in every other industry is via automation. And now it’s time for it to enhance, enable and empower the healthcare industry as well.