In the coming year, the focus for healthcare will be on taking advantage of new technology and enabling greater access for patients. These are 2022 healthcare trends for primary care.
Consumerization. Many major retailers are beginning to offer primary care services within existing stores for the convenience of their customers. A growing number of retail pharmacy chains are providing preventive care and care for minor illnesses and injuries. The healthcare trend for primary care has arisen out of a consumer expectation of convenience, easy access, and quick response times for their care.
Virtual Care. The rise of telehealth was seen almost immediately after the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. There were over 52 million telehealth visits conducted for Medicare recipients alone in 2020, a 63-fold increase over 2019. In response, some restrictions were eased to allow more patients access and to allow reimbursements for providers offering the virtual care. Even though remote visits are becoming more popular, patients are still more comfortable conducting the visit with their own primary care provider rather than with an unknown group of telehealth providers.
Technology. Improvements in healthcare technology are also reflected in the rise of virtual care as more patients will be using apps and wearables to share information with their primary care provider in 2022. The trend is not expected to completely eclipse in-person care but is seen as part of a hybrid approach to healthcare delivery for primary care providers. Patients will have initial consultations based on the results of data transmitted via an app or wearable device and then visit the practice in person if that is deemed necessary. Otherwise, communication can be completed via a patient portal and prescriptions sent electronically and securely.
Population Health. Addressing social determinants of health that can impact a primary care provider’s patient population will become increasingly important as part of the 2022 healthcare trends. An investment in those areas of the patient’s life that can impact their ability to access and secure appropriate care, such as transportation and housing, will increase. One major area that will need to be addressed is access to connectivity that enables these patients to participate in virtual care, a particularly important aspect of providing care to remote, rural patients.
Disparities in Healthcare Access. Tackling those social determinants of health will emerge as a trend toward analyzing barriers to care and then investing in programs that will have the greatest impact on those patients. Some steps that will become important in the move toward breaking down barriers to healthcare access may include:
- Building meaningful partnerships with community partners so patients and members of the community will have a significant role in developing solutions for addressing disparities.
- Making healthcare equity a strategic priority for the primary care practice, accomplished through training, cultural competency, and workforce diversity initiatives.
- Prioritizing the measurement and reporting of healthcare disparities within the practice, with the goal of acknowledging and resolving the issues for the patient population.
Cloud-Based Technology. Moving healthcare systems and their data to the cloud is an innovative aspect of the 2022 healthcare trends for primary care providers. Cloud-based systems enable greater connectivity through interoperability, resulting in higher quality care. They also provide access for patients who are able to view their medical records and communicate with their providers securely and efficiently, via a patient portal or other messaging system. Data can be transmitted through cloud-based systems quickly and easily, from anywhere with a connection as it is not dependent on a physical server within the provider’s office.
Trust. With this onslaught of technology advances comes the need to rebuild trust within the patient-provider relationship. When the pandemic began, there was much false and misleading healthcare information permeating social media and other digital platforms. In 2022, the primary care provider will need to work on re-establishing trust by ensuring that the information they provide is evidence-based and verifiable. Whether sharing that information in person or via a content platform, the provider will find that accurate and accessible healthcare information is the key to rebuilding trust with patients in an overloaded digital environment in 2022 and beyond.