Wow — 2023 just flew by! And what a year it has been. We at Memora Health had such an exciting time last year building out our team, bringing on new clients and a $30 million investment to continue fueling our growth, and helping organizations across healthcare innovate care delivery while pursuing our mission of making care more accessible, actionable, and always-on.
Thinking back on this past year, I’d like to reflect on some key themes that are converging and will ultimately help us to put the pieces in place to support the care delivery system of the future. From advancements in AI to evolving patient expectations of care, let’s dive into formative trends sure to shape the healthcare landscape in 2024.
1. We’re just getting started with AI in healthcare
We’ve seen widespread enthusiasm for ChatGPT and plenty of talk around opportunities to leverage AI — from summarizing and aggregating medical information to streamlining clinical operations to potentially replacing tasks altogether.
For instance, now-staple inpatient technologies like EHRs are just starting to incorporate conversational AI — intelligent technology focused on understanding and generating human language — to possibly streamline clerical tasks like data input and inbox management. Reputable health systems have also invested in developing AI programs — such as Cedars-Sinai, which announced a new system in May 2023 that uses deep learning to predict adverse cardiac episodes.
Even the New England Journal of Medicine — perhaps the most prestigious academic medical journal — has created a new publication, NEJM AI, focused on showcasing cutting-edge research and practical applications of AI in healthcare. At the regulatory level, the White House unveiled new responsibilities for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “to advance responsible AI innovation by a wide range of healthcare technology developers that promotes the welfare of patients and workers in the healthcare sector.”
But go a layer deeper, and you’ll realize AI also met some of its limits in 2023. Some rushed uses of generative AI posed unintended danger to users, including an eating disorder chatbot intended as a supportive resource that began issuing potentially harmful dieting advice.
In 2024, we’ll likely see a more measured approach to developing AI tools and finding the most appropriate ways to apply them — with guardrails in place to promote consistency and safety. Ready to learn more about recent applications of AI in healthcare? Download our whitepaper.
2. Provider shortages won’t go away anytime soon
Among the multiple crises healthcare has faced over the last several years, a historic workforce shortage stands out as one of the most existentially threatening.
An astounding 30% of nurses are planning to quit the workforce. And the U.S. is running low on primary care physicians (PCPs), with the American Medical Association (AMA) predicting healthcare will lack 17,000 to 48,000 needed PCPs by 2034.
If those numbers don’t worry you enough (they should), take into consideration that almost half of the nation’s physicians are over 55 years of age — meaning we’ll witness a possibly exacerbated crisis once they retire. Couple this fact with the explosion of patient volumes expected over the next decade, and it’s clear the industry will continue to fall short.
A variety of factors have led healthcare to this point. Principally, there’s no doubt growing burnout has contributed significantly to medical professionals leaving the field. According to the CDC, nearly half of healthcare’s workforce reported burnout in 2022 — a surge from 32% in 2018.
As it’s more and more apparent healthcare’s worker shortage is a long-term issue, 2024 will likely witness stronger efforts by providers to retain talent, compete to attract and recruit physicians, and adopt innovative technologies to streamline operations and foster less stressful work environments.
3. Patients will no longer put up with poor care experiences
Patients have higher expectations of what the experience of care should look like, how to access care, and the resources with which they’re provided to navigate care.
A large part of this shift has to do with the expansion of digital technology throughout just about every consumer industry. For instance, a recent poll found 60% of patients ages 18 to 24 would actually switch providers for better digital resources.
But people also generally crave more satisfying and clarifying experiences while communicating with physicians. A 2022 report revealed most patients misunderstand a lot of medical terminology their doctors use. A 2023 survey builds on these findings, discovering over 90% of patients prefer less jargon when interacting with care teams – and even view physicians who use overly complex language as “cold” and “condescending.” Further showcasing this point, one limited social media-based study found ChatGPT outperformed human doctors in measures of empathy and quality.
Of course, it’s easy to point the finger at the emergence of COVID — associated with increases in hospital-acquired infections and lower safety scores — when guessing why patients are less satisfied with their care experiences. However, recent evidence suggests what often threatens a best-in-class patient experience lies in operational friction clinicians and patients encounter day in and day out.
In 2024, expect providers to prioritize eliminating clerical frustrations for patients and their care teams to ensure better experiences across the board, enhancing two-way communication between patients and care teams, and finding ways to put empathy back into healthcare.
4. Disruptions to hospital-based fee-for-service models
Simply put, fee-for-service healthcare has proven inadequate for fostering positive health outcomes at scale. That’s why the industry is increasingly witnessing provider-plan partnerships, mainstream retailers entering the care delivery space, and a shift to value-based care (VBC) models — and will continue to do so this year.
In fact, one figure projects VBC will grow from generating around $500 billion to $1 trillion in enterprise value over the next five years. Furthermore, in July of this year, CMS will officially pilot its Making Care Primary Model in Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Washington to reinforce alternative payment structures.
But the disruption of traditional in-hospital, fee-for-service care is extending well beyond long-standing growth in VBC. Retail giants have accelerated their development of robust initiatives to expand access to affordable and convenient care resources, such as CVS’s recently announced virtual offerings in primary care and mental health.
In 2024, be on the lookout for a continued shift of care away from the hospital setting with more advanced home-care services, investments in alternative care structures, expanding healthcare offerings from major retailers, and the increased adoption of digital healthcare solutions.
5. Persisting healthcare resource challenges might see improvement
Health system finances took a nosedive the past couple of years. But that doesn’t mean 2024 is doomed to see the same trend.
Sure, hospitals saw highs and lows in 2023. For instance, a report by Kaufman Hall found a dip in revenue from June to July 2023. However, the same study discovered overall margins have improved from 2022 — a year when many hospitals were in the negative.
Most early predictions look positive for this year. For instance, Moody’s forecasts nonprofit hospitals will experience gains in patient volumes and better reimbursement rates from insurers — culminating in a 10% to 20% increase in the sector’s revenue. McKinsey foresees higher-than-average growth in the payer sector, outpatient and ambulatory services, medical software programs, and specialty pharmacy.
All that being said, there’s little doubt that providers will still need to focus on prioritizing investments to make up ground lost from the past several years. While painting a brighter picture for 2024, Moody’s also warns of the possibility of continued interest rate hikes, increased medication costs, and a spike in post-pandemic elective procedures.
In 2024, expect to see providers increasingly scrutinize must-haves vs. wants, invest in comprehensive digital healthcare technologies that help address several challenges, and refine their at-home and remote care delivery strategies.
All of healthcare knows the last few years have been challenging. Much of the industry has been forced into survival mode. But if 2023 was in part a reckoning for healthcare as the pandemic has faded into the background, 2024 will be a chance for providers and other organizations to take difficult lessons and transform them into effective, long-lasting solutions.
Curious how Memora Health can help your organization with its 2024 goals? Speak with one of our experts.