As much of the entire world stood still (at a distance), healthcare was forced to rethink everything across the continuum of care. The aftermath of 2020 magnified the need to fast-track a normally slow pace of innovation. In response, healthcare sped ahead by decades.

With overdue clinical, financial and operational seismic changes occurring over the past 12-18 months, the momentum to truly transform healthcare has finally taken root. As we look back on 2021, we’re sharing four key trends that emerged and predictions for what’s on the horizon in 2022.

Healthcare Mashups For Better Health, Wealth & Well-Being

As we explored at the 8th Annual emids Healthcare Summit, the unexpected mashup of organizations, technologies, care delivery and payment models is perhaps the most talked-about development today. While the shock of the pandemic required companies to invest, partner or evolve their capabilities and revenue streams to better face an unpredictable future, this new landscape promises the incredible potential to dramatically change how care is delivered.

More than any other area, digital health has seen the most investment over the past year from within and outside healthcare. Startups, longstanding payers and providers needed to differentiate themselves with vertical integrations across care journeys. The necessity to address mental health led investors as the top-funded therapeutic focus in 2021, topping at $3.1B by the end of Q3. With a vertical approach to funding, healthcare players can meet consumer demand for a consolidated, accessible care journey with new product offerings and capabilities.

At emids, we were not exempt from this trend. In the past year, we welcomed design-led software engineering firm Macadamian and Quovantis, an award-winning user experience design and software development company. This growth of emids over the past year serves to scale client growth and enhance our offerings. As complements to our existing expertise, these acquisitions added specific capabilities that have compounded value, both near- and long-term, for our clients.

Data: The Key to Optimizing Operations

Innovation continues with cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), 5G connectivity and the Internet of things (IoT), but it’s data that has quickly become the central currency of healthcare. Finally, the entire industry sees and understands how data delivers financial and clinical success by enabling real-time decision making, precision medicine and population health management.

We’ve witnessed how global healthcare systems managed personal protection equipment (PPE), payers addressed social determinants of health (SDOH) and providers leveraged remote vitals to inform treatment to transform care with real-world insights. To transform care and optimize operations, leveraging predictive analytics allows leaders to make more precise and valuable data-driven decisions in real-time. Data lakes, predictive analytics, big data and AI will continue to unlock disruptive innovation across the entire ecosystem.

No one organization in healthcare has a complete set of digital transformation tools, but success in 2022 hinges on becoming a data-driven organization. Today, approximately 30% of the world’s data volume is generated by healthcare. By 2025, healthcare’s data volume will reach 36%. Adopting future-focused solutions like our CoreLAKE data management platform can create the capabilities and flexibility healthcare enterprises need to deliver care at the right place and time. Embracing secure, omnichannel platforms in a connected ecosystem will earn consumer trust, drive operational efficiencies and enhance the consumer experience.

Embracing a Patient-Centric Reality

A hybrid landscape of in-person care, remote monitoring, telemedicine and omnichannel experiences requires patients and providers to navigate and adapt to a new baseline of engagement. In future planning, organizations must undertake an agile transformation of their people, processes and technologies to embrace a patient-centric reality.

The pandemic swiftly cemented patient expectations around convenience, flexibility and security in digital patient access. In a 2020 survey, Experian Health found that 73% of patients wanted to self-schedule appointments online. Prompting providers to oblige, with 93% electing to improve the patient experience as a top priority. As our world adopts a mashup of digital and analog, local and global healthcare delivery, demand for an improved patient experience isn’t going anywhere. Organizations that choose to modernize technologies and build their entire operation around the patient experience will find themselves at a competitive advantage over those that do not.

As the pandemic reshaped care delivery through nontraditional platforms, healthcare recognized the need to create value-rich experiences for consumers in a digital world. Changing the way consumers interact with the healthcare system means embracing human-centered design thinking. By doing so, healthcare organizations can leverage a deeper understanding of patients to solve problems, achieve better clinical outcomes, improve the patient experience and lower costs along the way.

In 2022, there is a powerful opportunity before healthcare to not disintegrate in the face of disruption and instead break legacy thinking to raise the bar on consumer engagement.

Automation at Scale: A New Necessity

Soon intelligent automation will reach virtually every part of the industry across payers, providers and healthcare systems. The demand to cut costs will continue, requiring healthcare leaders to implement technology and methodologies in both clinical and administrative functions. Luckily, implementing AI and automation at scale can save time, money and empower the workforce by providing an environment free from mundane tasks.

AI and intelligent automation will continue to be prized for the positive impact it can have on operational efficiency and more importantly, the patient experience. While big data continues to grow, the next step is to layer in intelligent automation and make insights broadly accessible to providers, payers and consumers.

From our personal discussions with more than 80 customers, only 40% have initiated an automation journey. With a deep understanding of healthcare and years of experience implementing a range of solutions, our Automation offerings include our ideation framework and a business library of 400+ automation use cases for customers to review and adopt the right fit for their business needs.

The immediate and positive impact of automation has moved the technology from a nice-to-have to a necessity in healthcare’s digital transformation. In the coming year, healthcare leaders must employ today’s technology to do more in the future.

A Year of Recovery and Renewal

Healthcare is, and always will be, ripe for disruption. When we focused on pursuing innovation for the sake of bettering our industry, it became clear that digital transformation is not only helpful but crucial to eliminating what has held us back for so long. In 2021 we focused on learning and implementing new processes into a long-standing, outdated system. From our vantage point, healthcare needs to continue on this path to recovery while simultaneously pursuing ways to improve efficiency, intelligence and connectivity for tomorrow. The truth is – 2022 will require all of us to continue to innovate as our new normal will continue to be ever-changing. We can only progress if we commit to scaling digital transformation to improve continuity, quality and access to care.