Healthcare that is focused on prevention and on encouraging patients to get more involved in their care can help reduce hospital admissions and improve the quality of patient outcomes. Meeting individuals where they are to improve the health of those at risk is just one of the strategies among the population health management trends for 2022.
Telehealth. At the start of the pandemic in 2020, the use of telehealth experienced a rapid increase and it is expected that the innovations around remote care will continue in 2022. In fact, the definition of telehealth is evolving, as patients and physicians become more comfortable with more secure digital tools such as online portals, texting, and virtual care options that offer more personalized remote healthcare advice and support.
Virtual care is expanding from reactively responding to illness or injury to become more proactive with preventive care. Patients who are working with providers to manage their chronic illness, in particular, are taking advantage of remote healthcare options in greater numbers. In 2022, the remote trend will expand with an increased use of wearables that enable patients to monitor their own health at home.
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Analyzing barriers to care. Social determinants of health are becoming more important in population health management. Investments in transportation and housing, among other factors that affect a patient’s health, are expected to increase in 2022 and beyond. Addressing these barriers to quality care by tackling social determinants of health will require a greater focus on care at the population level and an investment in relevant community programs that will have a significant impact on individuals within that community.
An opportunity to analyze barriers to care and to address the issues arising from social determinants of health lies in strategic partnerships with government and non-governmental programs such as Medicaid and community organizations. The focus on increasing access to care will become the responsibility of payers as well as providers.
Addressing healthcare disparities. The disparities in access and the resulting healthcare outcomes will be part of the population health management trends in 2022. Overlapping with the issues involved in social determinants of health, addressing disparities also takes into account racial discrimination in healthcare. Robert Bollinger, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, suggests steps that healthcare leaders can take to start the process of addressing healthcare disparities:
- Prioritizing the measurement and reporting of health disparities based on race and other social determinants of health factors within their clinics, facilities, digital programs, and among providers.
- Building meaningful partnerships with trusted community partners, such as churches and local politicians, to enable and encourage patients and partner members to play significant roles in developing solutions that are meant to address these disparities.
- Making racial equity a strategic priority for the entire healthcare organization. Many organizations are emphasizing and implementing training, cultural competency, or workforce diversity initiatives. Training alone is not sufficient. Healthcare equity must be more than a topic in a meeting to be effective for population health management in 2022.