The COVID-19 pandemic has had and continues to have a vast impact on the healthcare sector. New technology has always been adopted steadily within healthcare, but the pandemic forced the industry to adapt and innovate quickly to meet demand. Our overwhelmed healthcare systems became heavily dependent on technological advancements to improve efficiency and patient access. This expedited change will continue as we deal with the ongoing knock-on effects of the pandemic. Join us as we analyze the key healthcare technology and compliance trends in 2022.
Cybersecurity and Data Protection
With digital transformation comes the need to secure and protect sensitive digital data. Healthcare infrastructure was left vulnerable during the pandemic, and hackers took advantage of this. Notably, we saw a significant increase in cyber threats, ransomware attacks, and data theft during this time. Highly valuable vaccine data was a particular target, with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) reporting a cyberattack that resulted in unlawful access to regulatory submission documents for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021, the healthcare industry draws the costliest data breach with a staggering average cost of $9.23 million in 2021. Outdated technology and on-premise servers are a leading reason for data breaches. In 2022, healthcare providers will need to identify and address any underlying flaws in their digital solutions to minimize the risk of any future cyberattack. Many healthcare providers have chosen to migrate their services to the cloud, with cloud-based ERHs offering on-hand expertise and enhanced security features. Many more healthcare organizations will follow suit over the coming year.
Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
Many of the hurdles that we faced during the previous two years could be addressed through the adoption and use of Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices. IoMT devices can help to reduce costs within the healthcare industry, improve patient access and enhance the efficiency and diversity of services offered. IoMT adoption has increased significantly over the pandemic, with over 10 billion active IoMT devices in 2021, and the number looking set to exceed 25.4 billion by 2030. Indeed, the IoMT global market value is predicted to reach 254.2 million by 2026.
IoMT devices and remote patient monitoring services will certainly be a trend to follow through 2022 as remote healthcare options become ever more popular.
Problems with data interoperability were highlighted during the pandemic. Interoperability enables multiple healthcare providers to securely access shared electronic health information. This allows patients to benefit from collaborative healthcare without the need for comprehensive diagnostics and history review each time they consult with a new healthcare professional.
Inadequate data sharing slows down access to healthcare and impacts the standard of care provided. The influx of apps collecting valuable patient data has driven the need for enhanced data interoperability, so it is likely to be a top priority for the healthcare industry in 2022.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Chronic medical staff shortages are proving problematic, particularly as the pandemic rumbles on and increases the number of staff sick days being taken. To highlight the scale of the problem, the World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted a projected shortfall of 18 million healthcare workers by 2030.
Arguably the most promising advancement in healthcare technology is the introduction of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)-powered bots. RPA is widely used in the modern healthcare industry for tasks including appointment scheduling, claims management, and general hospital management. RPA technology is set to transform the healthcare system, helping to combat inefficiencies within the industry. RPA-powered bots can help to streamline the referral process, using AI algorithms to accurately scan patients’ symptoms and refer them to the most appropriate healthcare professional.
Mental Health Focus
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already growing mental health crisis in the US. From August 2020 to February 2021, the CDC reported an increase in adults with recent symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder from 36.4% to 41.5%. This worrying increase in mental health conditions brings this issue to the forefront in 2022. Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring offers a breakthrough in this area, widening patient access to mental health services. According to Rock Health, digital health startups offering mental health services raised $5.1 billion in 2021, which was $3.3 billion more than any other clinical indication.
With healthcare spending set to reach nearly $6 trillion by 2027, healthcare organizations are seeking ways to streamline and automate financial processes. Financial technology is seeing rapid evolution, with heavy investment in FinTech startup companies. FinTech solutions simplify processes including insurance claims, finance management, settlement services, and digital payments. Additionally, FinTech offerings can level the playing field when it comes to income inequality, affordability, and access to healthcare. The FinTech space is one to watch in 2022.
The “No Surprises Act” and The 21st Century Cures Act
Two new pieces of federal legislation will be implemented in 2022, both aiming to improve and simplify the patient experience. These acts are likely to set the scene for the healthcare regulatory climate in 2022.
The 21st Century Cures Act, which came into effect in 2020, aims to allow “all electronically accessible health information” to be accessed, exchanged, and used “without special effort on the part of the user.” Moving forwards, this must be carefully balanced with the protection of sensitive patient data, ensuring that the 21st Century Cures Act requirements are adhered to in a HIPAA-compliant manner.
Effective from January 1st, 2022, the “No Surprises Act” was implemented to protect patients from unexpected medical bills. Surprise bills can often lead to unwanted disputes between healthcare providers and patients. This act covers healthcare accessed through out-of-network doctors and hospitals for both an emergency and non-emergency, as well as air ambulance services from out-of-network providers.
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