CI’s healthcare analysts rounded out the year attending some of the most influential industry events and connecting with healthcare professionals across the country. We wanted to understand key digital healthcare trends and what’s top-of-mind for executives. At the AHIP Consumer Experience and Digital Health Forum, HLTH, Healthcare Internet Conference and Next Generation of Patient Experience events, we learned more about how organizations find innovative solutions to track and optimize data, enhance care access and deliver notable digital experiences despite facing new challenges. Based on what we saw at the end of 2022, here are the healthcare trends our team is expecting to see more of in 2023.

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Some of the conferences our healthcare team attended

Virtual care complements traditional healthcare

Telemedicine plateaued after explosive growth at the onset of the COVID pandemic. While telemedicine expansion has slowed, innovative healthcare providers will find new ways to better use now-established telemedicine platforms and options. Industries often overestimate the impact of a new technology in the short run, but often underestimate the effect of technology in the long run. Healthcare organizations need to think about the redistribution of care when it comes to these not-so-new-anymore digital services. The best firms use all available tools, digital or otherwise, to establish relationships and ensure continuity of care through follow ups. Additionally, the shift from fee-for-service sick care to accountable care will enable individuals to be more proactive with their health. Patients will want options that work for them, whether that be digital or in-person. Consumers’ expectations of primary care are increasing, and the best organizations are developing hybrid care solutions by providing both virtual and in-person services. Overall, we expect the industry to continue to establish telemedicine as a complement to, rather than a substitute for, in-person care.

Digital care should decrease friction rather than increase it

Today’s technology allows firms to develop personalized and dynamic digital experiences. But personalized is not necessarily the same as personal. Leading firms make an effort to ensure their digital experiences make patients feel more connected instead of more isolated. Healthcare organizations need to focus on improving “the digital front door,” i.e., every major patient touchpoint from a digital standpoint. Firms best meet patient expectations by meeting them where they already are, be it mobile, desktop, apps, tablets or in-person. Organizations should focus on a range of technology, rather than a single website or any one single shiny new digital product. One example we saw at conferences: UT Southwestern, in partnership with DeliverHealth, built an exceptional app and launch campaign by combining its consumer tech stack (indoor wayfinding app, MyChart app, video visit app, and its other apps) into a single experience.

Still, organizations face complicated challenges across digital. Patient messaging, for example, is the new normal way for patients to connect with providers. However, organizations that introduce or increase focus on messaging find themselves quickly inundated by patient portal messaging. These messages often contain questions that can be answered elsewhere on the platform. To solve this issue, Ochsner Health designed new patient portal buttons to better direct patients to appropriate channels for their concerns, so that patients can find the information they need without overwhelming the messaging portal with questions can be answered elsewhere.

This screenshot shows a slide from Ochsner Health's presentation at the NGPX panel on patient messaging
Ochsner Health NGPX Session – Patient Messaging

Additionally, firms want leverage data to gain additional insights and improve patient experiences, but organizations are struggling with fractured ownership in their tech architecture between operations, IT, and marketing. Fragmentation in data and departmental silos provide disjointed experiences and negatively impact the patient experience. We expect to see organizations tackling these issues as another one of the healthcare trends in 2023.

Helping younger patients in the mental health crisis

Teens and young adults are currently in a collective mental health crisis. They often turn to digital platforms for instant access to emotional comfort, including non-traditional mediums such as podcasts. This is an area where healthcare organizations can step up, getting competent care on approachable digital platforms and thus into the hands of young adults. Platforms such as TalkSpace are already taking this approach. We expect to see more healthcare organizations introduce digital mental health options aimed at teens and young adults.

Additionally, mental and primary care access can be geographically limited. Varying patient mobility can be another hurdle. Virtual care can help close these gaps as well. Digital health allows for increased engagement with meaningful impacts, such as a 31% increase in perinatal mental health treatment use. Maternal care is one obvious place for more mental health integration, as only 5% of pregnant women see a mental health provider.

Care needs to be made more equitable

Nearly every healthcare conference emphasized the need to increase equitable, accessible care. Increasing affordability, portability and usability leads to better health outcomes. Additionally, a system that works for the most marginalized is a system that works for all. Some organizations, like Fresh Funds and Instacart, are helping to address the food insecurity crisis that impacts 34 million Americans by providing stipends to people for healthy foods. This is an area where healthcare organizations can work with groups outside the healthcare industry. Employers, for example, drive many of the social determinants of health like income, housing and childcare, meaning employers (and the benefit programs they offer) act a critical step in many peoples journey to care. Healthcare organizations can find new ways to work with employers to improve community health.

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Reduce the burden on healthcare employees

Burnout is the threat to continuity and success in any industry. At the healthcare conferences we attended, we saw healthcare organizations noting the need to focus more energy on their own people. Specifically, organizations are focusing on making things simpler for their employees and figuring out how to position employees, staff, providers, nurses, and other clinicians to enable them to do the right thing for patients. Intermountain and SCL Health noted that they are focusing on the patient while still addressing the needs of care partners with more self-service capabilities and increasing access to patient information for proxies. Also, organizations like Oschner Health have introduced AI-powered ambient listening into the doctor’s office to help transcribe notes and reduce implementation for physicians. Overall, the firms said these innovations lead to better outcomes for both provider and patient. We expect firms to implement similar changes as a healthcare trend in 2023.

Make healthcare more like Disney World?

Organizations, members, consumers and patients alike always require human understanding. Shared empathy through shared experiences leads to better care. Individuals are asking their healthcare organizations to create a more connected experience when it comes to care delivery: “listen to me,” “connect with me,” and “partner with me”. Several conference conversations revolved around organizations needing to adjust their content accordingly. Firms need to understand how patients talk about their healthcare and speak to them in the same way. Approaching the process by being a consumer-first, Scripps Health, in partnership with Sparkle, built an excellent provider finder, using new smart taxonomy to help everyone understand. In a noteworthy session, Jake Poore, a former Disney executive, imagined what the hospital experience would be like if it were run by Disney, listing likely and significant changes: improvements across parking, wait times, price transparency, patient loyalty and patient interactions. Will one of the biggest 2023 healthcare trends be more providers wearing mouse ears? Probably not. But healthcare organizations can learn something from Disney about what people do and do not enjoy.

For more healthcare trends and insights throughout 2023, check out our Insights section. And to be the first to know about the latest trends and updates, don’t forget to learn more about our subscription healthcare research services.

Alexandra Bolshakov

Alexandra Bolshakov is an analyst on CI's healthcare team.