The health system has to deal with countless challenges, including a new wave of COVID pandemic, large-scale and rapid implementation of mass vaccination programs, a reduction in the labor force, and a significant increase in the burden of noncommunicable diseases as an unintended consequence of the pandemic.
What is worth noting in the past year is that the elements of digital transformation have emerged all over the world, and in some places have surpassed telemedicine to include better data-driven decision-making. The following four areas will inevitably become the main focus areas in the next few years.
As climate emergencies become more real and the impact of climate change becomes more pronounced, the urgency for governments around the world to seek to transform their services to improve sustainability has accelerated. Providing health care is an important part of a country’s carbon footprint, so it’s no surprise that the sustainability of providing health care is now a big project.
Despite advances in making treatments more sustainable and less harmful, such as changes in propellants in inhalers, there is still much work to be done. The digital model and hybrid approach to managed care will help reduce unnecessary patient journeys. There is no doubt that the material supply chain and better management of the ever-expanding clinical waste caused by COVID needs to change. Some governments have made these changes a priority, and there is no doubt that more changes will be made.
Due to the pandemic, security is now a subject of growth and great interest. Health and safety are largely the responsibility of the government. The agreement between the government and citizens includes protecting them from public health events, whether it is infectious, such as COVID, or chemical or radiological events. The increasing adoption of digital models has increased the potential for joint monitoring and preparedness, and we have seen examples of cross-border initiatives to ensure that we are better prepared for the next pandemic. Health safety also includes better management of antimicrobial resistance. Sadly, just because our attention has shifted elsewhere, this growing global problem has not disappeared.
Labor scarcity will inevitably continue to be a high priority issue. Due to the impact of COVID, care providers have had a difficult time in the past few years, so burnout rates have increased. In addition, the usual wave of immigrant labor has not emerged as usual. They are blocked by crossing national borders, are exhausted in some cases, and want to stay in their home country with their families. The hasty implementation of digitalization has exacerbated these already challenging workplaces. We still have not done our best to support our employees effectively, nor have they trained them in the new skills required for personalized hybrid medical services, globally develop.
- Life course methods for better management of non-communicable diseases
The health system is inevitably shifting from “remedies” for symptoms and diseases to also include delayed symptoms, and in some cases, diseases themselves, because they can better meet people’s needs. This trend is unfolding around the world, and disease prevention and financial indicators that promote the health system to better deliver value rather than quantity have become new frontiers. All of this is due to the increasing popularity of health information exchange, some within the health system, some within or even outside the country.
Digital transformation and deployment have made these changes possible. As a result, new industries supporting health and wellness have sprung up, attracting more people and inspiring them to take on more responsibilities to manage their lives. We will see more large-scale attempts to encourage these trends, some of which will also include gamification to promote the provision of extrinsic motivation until people develop their own intrinsic motivation to better manage their healthy behaviors.
What will the new world look like?
We can look forward to a world where the benefits of artificial intelligence and a better understanding of all the factors that affect health will give us the opportunity to live healthier and more productive lives. The health system will be personalized to support all these changes. However, not everything is good. We still have to accept this pandemic and be better prepared for the next pandemic, and we still have very serious inequalities to overcome at the national and global levels. Only in this way can the vision of HIMSS be better realized-realizing everyone’s full health potential anywhere.
Dr. Charles Alessi is the Chief Clinical Officer of HIMSS.