Takeaways, Trends and Prognostications from Summit ‘22 

If I had to choose one word to encapsulate the 2022 Emids Healthcare Summit, it’s change. From reverting back to an in-person gathering after three years of meeting remotely, to being purposeful about creating an event that’s reflective of the direction we hope healthcare is moving (more on that later), to a shift in attendees’ moods that I attribute to a deeper level of vulnerability and empathy with one another, it’s undeniable that things have changed for us all on a personal and an industry level. It feels like we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the post-pandemic tunnel. And while a new year will bring new and different challenges, we’re confident that we can continue to successfully navigate the changing landscape and demonstrate category leadership if we remain flexible and our approaches to moving healthcare forward are diverse.

In many ways, we’re still grappling with implications from COVID, and paired with a recession that’s forecasted for 2023, much of the conversation that took place last November was centered around how to adequately prepare for and weather strong economic headwinds. This was particularly true during our Tech Forum, which hosted senior technology leaders for intimate, closed-door working groups. Discussions held during the Forum parlayed into the following day’s Healthcare Summit, and nearly all sessions were framed by the uncertain economic future.  

Three topics I heard discussed with overwhelming prevalence throughout the Summit were addressing the staffing crisis, how to enhance the member/consumer/patient experience without burdening end users with cost and how to democratize the wealth of data we have at our fingertips. 

Staffing shortage 

Our Shaping New Talent Solutions session focused on planning for the imminent capacity challenge, but the hard truth is, healthcare – along with many other industries – has faced a historic lack of staff for months (in July, U.S. News & World Report cited the shortage of healthcare employees as “the nation’s top patient safety concern”), and the fallout is just beginning to be felt. With less available personnel, patients are increasingly accessing healthcare in non-traditional settings. This is forcing the hand of providers to get creative about creating capacity and harnessing the power of available technology. Artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing are bridging gaps in services across the board – from scheduling and patient encounter follow-up communications to robotic surgeries. Concerning cost, we need to keep our eye on the long game as upfront costs for tech investment will undoubtedly show ROI. 

Emphasis on experience 

When talking about staffing constraints in traditional healthcare settings, we’d be remiss not to address the abundance of new retail health market entrants (Amazon, Walgreens, Walmart and others) and the choices they’ve afforded to consumers. Facing a shortage of physicians, but a growing number of options for how and where to seek care, healthcare entities will fight for patient acquisition and loyalty. This will be especially prominent in mental and behavioral health, as utilization in these verticals will presumably increase as the economy worsens. As healthcare companies implement new strategies to bring patients in the door – and keep them coming back – they’ll need to be mindful about not passing costs onto their already cash-strapped customers.  

Data usage 

In the past few years, we’ve gotten savvy about how we collect and use data to improve how we cater to end users, and that data intelligence will continue to get more sophisticated as we put an emphasis on up-leveling experience. The biggest improvement will be in data liquidity. We have an immense amount of data at our disposal. To unlock its full potential, it’s a matter of ensuring all appropriate parties have secure access to it. Of course, we’ll have to navigate more seamless data sharing while curbing spend.  

Another trend I anticipate that we’ll see this year is increased consolidation industry-wide, fueled by mergers and acquisitions. Consolidation activity has been fairly stagnant, remaining below pre-pandemic levels, but as companies forgo IPOs in favor of snapping up market share, and as the shift to value-over-volume is more readily embraced, we can expect to see an uptick in the number of M&A deals executed. 

I can’t properly reflect on Summit or surmise what the future of healthcare will hold without touching on diversity. Earlier I alluded to our organization being intentional about representing what we hope to see more of in our industry. We carefully crafted the event with diversity in mind, exemplified by the speaker representation on our Creating Health panel, down to instrumental variation in the music that was played throughout the two days. Progress is not possible without change, and I can confidently say that we’re practicing what we preach by embracing healthcare’s evolution while paving the way for our customers to do the same. 

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