According to Kaufman Hall, 2022 has proven to be one of the worst financial years on record for health systems; employment is down by approximately 100,000 from pre-pandemic levels due to a staffing exodus, and between 53% to 68% of hospitals will end the year in the red. Operating margins are thinner than ever, and a rapidly aging population seems poised to trigger an historic care crisis.
Taken together, these factors will make 2023 a challenging year for health systems. Americans are prone to reducing visits to providers in times of recession, and the end of the pandemic is likely to throw up to 15 million people off of Medicaid rolls. Care providers are beyond burned out, and those that do not leave the industry entirely are demanding higher wages and better treatment in order to stay. Even with boosted pay and improved working conditions, those that remain are faced with a significant administrative workload that takes them away from caring for patients.
To improve the situation for all stakeholders, health systems are likely to embrace technology more readily in 2023. Even mid-sized hospitals will be able to automate much of their back-end processes such as collections, claims processing, and accounts payable, along with much of the administrative work that is preventing providers from caring for their patients. By freeing care workers to focus on their core functions, healthcare organizations can reduce costs and improve scalability and efficiency.
Telehealth, which took off during the times of COVID lockdowns, is also likely to boost productivity by increasing access to providers regardless of their physical location. Rather than having to travel or overcome further barriers to access care, patients will be able to meet clinicians where they are, and health systems will be better able to scale staffing to meet demand without the additional costs associated with a physical location.
Artificial intelligence is also likely to level up wearable technologies and their associated applications, gathering data that can help more closely monitor health conditions and leveraging it to drive early interventions that could save lives and improve long-term outcomes. Recent advances in generative AI could also help provide data-driven, tailored responses to common health questions, freeing staff to focus on more complex problems.
While the new year holds a number of significant challenges for the healthcare industry, leveraging technology can help providers operate more efficiently, boost access to care, and deliver better outcomes for both their workers and their patients.