Going from Defense to Offense: Six Predictions for Health Tech in 2022
At this point, we can all agree COVID-19 was the Big Bang for virtual care. But after nearly two years of trial and tribulation, there are lots of questions about what could be around the corner.
Will we continue to see record-breaking funding? And are we in a bubble?
How are we going to deal with a shrinking workforce?
Will telehealth rates continue to fall? Was it all a fad?
Are we ever going to fix the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad EMR?
I recently sat down with our head of clinical operations, Dr. Pooja Aysola, to think through our own predictions for 2022. We came up with a long list, including some that are less than optimistic about what we’ll need to face in the new year. But one thing is for sure — virtual care gives us the opportunity to rebuild our broken healthcare system. And as a former soccer player who can’t help but think in sports analogies… 2022 could be the year we finally pivot from defense to offense.
2022 will be the year of the clinician (and it should be!)
The healthcare industry is grappling with a mass exodus and talent war. Clinicians now have the upper hand in deciding where they want to work, when they want to work, and how they want to work. We predict that healthcare companies with the “best” EMRs will attract top clinician talent. For the last two years, healthcare workers have battled against a relentless virus, rampant misinformation, and a ravaged system that fails to prioritize their needs. They’re no longer willing to put up with an EMR that gets in their way or works against them.
Our healthcare workforce will continue to shrink
We need to brace ourselves that staffing shortages will only get worse in the coming years. Nearly 80 percent of patients are concerned about their doctors’ levels of stress and burnout — and 1 in 3 people don’t believe medical school is worth the investment. Counter to the “Fauci Effect” in 2020, we’ll start to see a steep decline in the number of medical school applications in 2022.
Getting creative with care teams
Our failure to grow the shrinking workforce will lead more traditional providers and digital health companies to reconsider their care teams. There’s a lot of talk about how virtual care can help us move towards a personalized and value-based care model. Yet tech can only go so far to bridge the gap between “sick care” and proactive, high-touch care — and clinicians aren’t capable of shouldering the weight all on their own. We’ll start to see care teams include more patient navigators, health coaches, and other non-clinical staff to help bridge the gap for patients.
Taking virtual-first care from promise to reality
We may be biased but expect to see more traditional healthcare players investing in virtual care. There’s been a lot of talk about telehealth rates and whether short-term fear of the virus drove demand. But telehealth isn’t a fad — and we believe virtual care will only gain a stronger foothold as hybrid care becomes the norm. We’ve already seen signals with Cigna and UnitedHealth’s launching “virtual-first” plans, and we’re excited to see traditional healthcare heavyweights embrace flexible, accessible, and patient-driven care.
Less fragmentation, more cohesive “one-stop-shop” models.
Considering the digital health industry has already raised a $20 billion war chest by Q3 of this year, we’re expecting to see a sharp increase in mergers and acquisitions in 2022. From a high-level, consolidation benefits clinicians because they have a more holistic view of their patients. Patients and employers benefit as well because they have clearer options to choose from. And companies can fast-forward patient acquisition and product development. While Ro’s acquisition spree and Ginger’s merger with Headspace dominated the headlines this year, we’re curious to see which companies decide that digital health innovation should be a team sport.
And yes, we’ll continue to see record-breaking funding deals in 2022.
Digital health is finally getting the attention (and investment) it deserves — but only as long as our promises lead to results. And considering national health spending will reach $6.2 trillion by 2028, we’re nowhere near a bubble. I’m also optimistic that we’ll start to see more women CEOs and founders at the table, maybe even some who are ready to take on the “unsexy” parts of healthcare like we’re doing at Wheel. But we have a long road ahead of us. We’re still facing a significant gender gap with women founders only making up 2% of founders in enterprise tech companies and more specifically in health tech, only generating 19% of health funding deals in 2021.
What are your predictions for 2022?