Looking Forward: 3 Ways Healthcare Will Evolve in the Next Few Years

There are several forces driving changes in the healthcare industry. Technology, regulations, and increasing cost are some of them. Staff burnout and shortages fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic are others. The result of these forces is an evolution in the way patients receive and access care and a shift in who provides it.

Technology alone makes telehealth, self-service apps, and online research of symptoms and potential conditions possible. Unconventional care providers and partners are also in the mix due to tech advances. Getting birth control online and ordering tests that hitherto required a visit to the doctor’s office are now feasible. Some private organizations are beginning to form partnerships to deliver healthcare to their employees.

There are also changes that impact how conventional providers deliver care. Online retailers are launching private labels of medical supply products for hospitals, dentists, and other healthcare providers. Learn more at Tech companies are launching applications that interface with hospitals’ electronic health records.

These trends and others will continue to shape healthcare in the future. Thankfully, a lot of them will benefit you. This article will look at the major ways the industry is likely to change in the next few years.

1. Increased Personalization

One of the benefits of advancing technology is the ability to collect and analyze data from individual patients. Artificial intelligence, wearables, and improvements in DNA testing are paving the way for customized care. Soon care teams won’t need to apply generalities or averages to people. They can use the data directly obtained from patients, which will result in better insights.

Individualized data makes it possible for more accurate and efficient advice and treatment. Providers won’t have to rely only on a list of symptoms and their interpretations of patients’ descriptions. AI may eventually eliminate the need for some lab work and more expensive screening procedures like CT scans.

Another change related to tracking individuals’ data  is the emergence of predictive care. Armed with precise information, doctors and other care providers can forecast patient outcomes. These outcomes can be based on lifestyle or environmental factors, as well as genetics.

For instance, a woman may have an elevated risk of breast and ovarian cancer due to a family history. Genetic testing can help determine how elevated that risk is. Local data about the presence of cancer-causing chemicals from industrial activities can be included in the analysis. Individual lifestyle behaviors can also be factored in by monitoring things like diet and physical activity.

All of this combined data can predict the individual’s likelihood of eventually developing the disease. Pain management doctors can then develop more precise treatment recommendations and models to address the issue. These processes may be even more helpful when confronting disease variants that are resistant to current treatments.

Some types of depression and anxiety, for instance, do not respond to traditional medications. Other conditions like chronic sinusitis have symptoms that mimic allergies, so they’re difficult to diagnose.

While chronic sinusitis may respond to allergy treatments, doctors and patients still need to know the root cause of the symptoms. That’s because the patient’s illness may be serious. Sometimes the cause of chronic sinusitis is a rare autoimmune disorder that can take years to diagnose. AI and personal data may help overcome this obstacle, producing better patient outcomes.

2. Value-Based Models

Healthcare and treatment models are beginning to change how they measure success. Key performance indicators (KPIs) once focused on metrics like the number of patients treated or the number of services provided. Now such KPIs are on their way out. Value-based care models, which incentivize quality over quantity, are likely to become the norm.

Care and payment models tied to individual health events are showing promise in increasing care quality and cost efficiency. When these models are used, the providers involved in the treatment get a joint payment for services tied to the one event. Delivery of this form of healthcare comes through accountable care organizations (ACOs) and patient-focused medical centers.

Currently, ACOs are groups of healthcare providers who coordinate care for Medicare patients. The various providers agree to collaborate to help eliminate duplication and prevent mistakes. This type of care model may even lead to getting correct diagnoses faster.

As healthcare costs go up and patients are spending more out of pocket, those patients are demanding higher value. They want to know more about their benefits: What do they cover? Why do the costs break down that way? Patients also want clearer information on how in-network versus out-of-network coverage works.

Aging populations aren’t necessarily averse to tech, and they often want tech-driven, value-based options, too. As tech-savvy age groups like Generation X get older, healthcare plans will need to be more transparent. Coverage options must meet expectations and needs. More direct engagement between providers and patients will be necessary as patients’ healthcare needs change.

3. Increased Patient Input

Instead of relying on doctors and care providers to make decisions for them, patients are jumping into the driver’s seat. Many people are coming to perceive doctors as just one of many resources that can help them make decisions. Greater access to information and self-service options are certainly pushing this change. However, so are higher expectations for care and outcomes.

Simply put, patients want accurate results, and they want care providers to listen to their concerns. Being offered a “one size fits all” solution that doesn’t work or getting ignored can lead to frustration. So can continuous referrals to different specialists and repetitive tests without a foreseeable diagnosis.

As a result, care providers are starting to listen and use patients’ opinions to make improvements. This listening goes beyond surveys and other simple feedback methods. Patient councils and representatives within healthcare organizations and provider offices will likely become more common.

Providers’ data collection will become more targeted as they seek information to reshape how they deliver care. The industry will be forced to respond to feedback quicker. Since patients have more options, providers will have to move fast so they don’t get left behind.

Healthcare in the U.S. frustrates many, but it isn’t a stagnant industry. Of course, patient dissatisfaction with healthcare experiences and rising costs are significant challenges. Fully 76% of U.S. residents surveyed think healthcare is too expensive for the level of quality they receive.

However, the U.S. is beginning to see many changes to services. Technology that increases personalization, care models that boost value, and the incorporation of patient feedback can help. By embracing these evolving trends, healthcare providers can work to lower costs while strengthening the quality of care. That’s something that the patients will certainly look forward to.

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