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For Health Care Providers, Five Trends to Watch in 2022

Published in: Health Affairs

Today’s environment is one of two narratives: On one hand, there’s optimism as more Americans receive vaccines and resume in-person interactions. On the other hand, people are frustrated as the pandemic drags on with new variants and mixed guidance, and the return to normal is stymied by price inflation and supply chain disruptions.

For health care professionals, balancing the positive and the negative is an even greater challenge.

For this community, the pandemic’s effects are far from over. The virus will continue to affect all care settings for the foreseeable future and will continue to shape major decisions. For most health system providers, this means there are no more discussions of a “post-COVID” operating environment. Instead, the job is about managing the virus to minimize or eliminate the disruptions it can cause.

At the same time, COVID-19’s lasting effects exist within a macro environment of increased competition and movement toward value-based care. Despite the pandemic, billions were invested in startup companies built to take risk, leverage telehealth and apps, and deliver more cost-effective primary, home and specialty care—capabilities that got turbo-charged during the pandemic. In fact, in 2020, nearly $15 billion was invested in digital health and other technologies designed to disrupt traditional providers in the quest to provide lower-cost, higher-quality population health. In 2021, that figure jumped to more than $29 billion. These companies continue to disrupt fee-for-service by innovating targeted care delivery and services, winning loyal payer partners and patients alike.

Taken together, big changes are on the horizon for many operations critical for ongoing pandemic response, including modernizing supply chain operations and technologies, addressing health disparities, and improving efficiencies to improve the work lives and health of employees. Combined, the net effect is an environment that is more complex than ever before as providers continue to treat COVID-19 cases while working to implement large-scale changes in a variety of areas.

While challenging now, these changes ultimately are long overdue and largely positive for the industry. When complete, the nation should have a much more modern and resilient health care system, one that is more innovative, efficient, and effective.

What follows are the five main trends that could usher in future change for providers and some recommendations about how to embrace the changes ahead.

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