Six Impact Trends for 2022: Health Care’s Transformation Journey Continues
// By Lindsay R. Resnick //
The ability to attract, activate, and guide consumers through health care’s labyrinth depends not only on reimagining the business of health care but building relationships of value and trust that result in inspired, confident customers.
Health care transformation was all the buzz throughout 2021. To be transformed means to be completely overhauled or reshaped to the point of being unrecognizable from a previous form. Uber, Netflix, Airbnb, and Instagram transformed. Is health care there yet? No, but as we move into 2022, here are six impact trends that will definitely reshape the future.
1. Homeward Bound: From self-care to telemedicine to DIY testing — welcome home. Propelled by the pandemic and a rapidly growing aging-in-place movement, health care delivered in the home is booming.
A leading indicator is strategies from some of the biggest health brands: United Healthcare’s wellness partnership with Peloton; Humana’s fast-growing home solutions division; Mayo Clinic’s & Kaiser’s hospital-at-home initiatives; and Teladoc, Cigna, and Optum’s “virtual first” benefit plans.
The shift in sites-of-care has been dramatic, initially led by expansion of retail, urgent, and primary care clinics. The trend has swiftly moved to care-at-home. Traditionally home health was custodial, nonmedical assistance. Now the trend includes telehealth, virtual physical therapy, in-home nurse and doctor visits, and a full complement of health services from home lab testing to “food as medicine” nutrition.
2. Value Convergence: In a pay-for-performance environment, it’s clear that payers and providers working in tandem is a big improvement over traditional “frenemy” managed care relationships. Labeled “Payviders,” payers and providers are aligned around a co-dependent set of patient-centered objectives: shared financial risk, outcomes-based quality metrics, and personalized disease prevention and care management.
Bringing these two disciplines together isn’t easy, on many fronts. Acquiring, engaging, and retaining health plan members is very different from managing hospital-doctor-patient relations. But for both, it means delivering and demonstrating the value in value-based care. Amid an onslaught of InsurTech, MedTech, and HlthTech companies, Payviders are set to hold a place of significance in an outcomes-driven health care landscape.
Health care companies must move from check-the-box initiatives to become community health equity activists with solutions addressing real people’s real challenges.
3. Connected Aging: With approximately 3.5 million tech-savvy boomers turning 65 every year for the foreseeable future, it’s no surprise digital health has carved out a special niche: AgeTech. Encompassing brain health, caregiving, socialization, fall prevention, longevity, and end-of-life, hundreds of digital “point solutions” are scrambling for a piece of the senior market.
As the largest health care payer in the U.S. with more than 63 million beneficiaries, Medicare looks to digital health solutions to improve care and reduce costs. For example, Medicare Advantage plans offer supplemental benefits that incorporate digital technologies. Today’s senior is more connected than ever, with most owning a smartphone and going online every day to shop or search health-related websites. The generational digital divide is closing. From wearables to sensors to smart-home reconfiguration, techceleration will change the health care journey for an aging America.
From primary care clinics to vaccine distribution to remote monitoring to at-home kidney dialysis, the future of health care retailization is now.
4. Inclusive Health: Two quotes stand out from 2021: “COVID didn’t create disparities, it unveiled them;” and “Your Zip code shouldn’t determine how long you live, but it does.” There has been a lot of noise around health equity and hype around social determinants of health (SDoH).
Disparities have been defined, inequities identified, and biases acknowledged. Next comes action. Health care companies must move from check-the-box initiatives to become community health equity activists with solutions addressing real people’s real challenges.
This means locally based commitments to address the needs of multiple racial and ethnic segments experiencing disparity in health outcomes. It means supporting these efforts with culturally competent business practices and communications that influence and promote diversity and inclusion. One additional quote: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
5. Market Movers: Diversification into health care by Amazon, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and Best Buy is more than a trend. Consider that Dollar General just hired its first chief medical officer!
Retail giants are providing, supplying, and selling health care through a combined 40,000+ community locations, and include the top two e-commerce outlets in the country. The ability to scale not only means size advantage but translates into financial and operating efficiencies, expanded market access, and often market-altering innovation.
It also means an ability to address consumer demands for convenience, continuity, and consistency. From primary care clinics to vaccine distribution to remote monitoring to at-home kidney dialysis, the future of health care retailization is now. With a “if I can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mindset, get ready for collaboration and expansion through a few eye-popping 2022 deals.
Today’s senior is more connected than ever, with most owning a smartphone and going online every day to shop or search health-related websites.
6. Digital Well-Being: Consumers’ reliance on technology is growing, and this dependence is informing every aspect of daily life. Health care is no exception. This past year we’ve seen virtual health adoption move at the speed of light. Technology won’t slow down: cryptocurrency insurance premium and hospital bill payment, mobile gaming and VR to treat cognitive dysfunction, non-fungible token (NFT) wellness incentives, and metaversical health care experiences to connect physical well-being with digital lives.
In 2022, digital health’s storyline has to read: empowered patients, better quality, lower costs, and improved health outcomes. The future of health technology isn’t robots, AI, wearables, and holograms ― it’s delivering superior, connected customer experiences facilitated by technology that works behind the scenes where a customer barely sees it. Technology can be the transformative tool that helps consumers take ownership of their health.
For transformation to happen, it must revolve around the consumer. Status quo will win if the future is about products, services, and technology. True transformation must focus on relevant, meaningful connections with every customer wherever they are in their health care journey.
As health plan members and hospital system patients shoulder more personal responsibility for clinical and economic decisions, the ability to attract, activate, and guide them through health care’s labyrinth depends not only on reimagining the business of health care but building relationships of value and trust that result in inspired, confident customers. The north star needs to be health care that’s more accessible, equitable, and affordable.
Lindsay R. Resnick is executive vice president of Wunderman Thompson Health, responsible for strategic health initiatives, client growth, and business development. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He recently joined the Editorial Advisory Board of Strategic Health Care Marketing.