10 Health Care Trends to Watch in 2023

Innovations that empower the human connection top the list of Providence’s fifth-annual health care predictions.

RENTON, Wash., Jan. 26, 2023 – Executives from Providence, a not-for-profit health system serving the Western U.S., today released their fifth-annual list of health care predictions for the year ahead. 

As the world emerges from the isolation of the pandemic, human connection will be a major theme for 2023. This is especially true for the nation’s caregivers, who are still reeling from the pressures of the last three years, Providence leaders said. 

“With high burnout rates among clinicians and a worsening health care labor shortage, the most important advances in 2023 will be those that support the well-being of frontline caregivers,” said Providence President and CEO Rod Hochman, M.D. “This includes creating new models of care and reimagining the way we do the work, so that caregivers can find greater flexibility and balance in their lives while staying connected to the reason they got into health care in the first place: the human connection with patients,” Dr. Hochman said.

Meanwhile, health care across the country faces other big challenges, from unprecedented net operating losses to a national mental health emergency. How will health systems navigate the times, and can they seize the opportunity to drive greater access to high quality affordable care and shape the future of health care? Here are Providence’s top 10 predictions for the year ahead. 

1. Workplace innovations that ignite the joy of clinical practice and enable deeper human connection with patients will play a key role in navigating the health care labor crisis. 

Retention and recruitment will remain an urgent priority for health care leaders in 2023, but even that won’t be enough as the nation’s health care labor shortage worsens. Reimagining the work and leveraging technology will be essential for easing workloads, reducing burnout and helping caregivers reconnect to the joy of clinical practice. For example, “virtual nursing” and automating routine tasks such as medication reconciliation will help free up bedside nurses so they can focus on meaningful direct patient care. Likewise, technology-enabled solutions will securely capture interactions in the exam room, helping reduce the time physicians spend documenting each visit, which can mean the difference between clinicians making it home in time for dinner and having to stay late at the office. Greater patient adoption of digital tools will also take help take a load off clinicians, allowing patients to take charge of their own health by making it easier to access the information and resources they need, as well as to navigate the health system and connect with providers virtually or in-person.

2. The traditional concept of mergers and acquisitions in health care will give way to a new type of coalition, one that could be a game-changer for the future of health care. 

Think Civica Rx, the not-for-profit pharmaceutical company founded by multiple major health systems to make generic drugs more available and affordable. Or more recently, Truveta represents the coming together of several health systems in 2021 to harness the power of clinical data on a secure, deidentified platform. This year, the major health systems will coalesce around other shared challenges, leveraging one another’s resources and expertise to ensure access to the continuum of care in local communities as well as to achieve long-term financial sustainability.  

3. The alarming rise in youth mental health issues will prompt a full-court press among health systems, schools and community organizations working together to respond to the crisis.

Since the pandemic began, the incidence of mental health concerns among children and adolescents has skyrocketed, with more than a third of high school students reporting poor mental health and 44% reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Especially disturbing, one survey conducted by the Washington State Department of Health found that more than 20% of local 12th graders had seriously considered suicide over the past 12 months, while 16% of eighth graders had detailed plans to end their lives, almost half of whom said they did not have an adult to turn to when they felt sad or hopeless. In 2023, expect health systems to prioritize action, partnering with schools and community organizations to create greater access to mental health services and promote well-being among young people.

4. With the new year comes a new subvariant. The latest strain of Omicron may prove the most transmissible yet – though the severity remains to be seen.

XBB.1.5 – the latest subvariant of Omicron – could be the most infectious mutation of COVID-19 to date as it spreads quickly across the globe. While the severity of the new strain is still to be determined, it is another reminder that COVID-19 will continue to be part of our lives for the foreseeable future. Thanks to the rapid development of vaccines, medications, and a growing understanding of how to prevent and treat COVID-19, we are getting better at managing the virus, which will join the ranks of other infections diseases, such as influenza and even HIV, that we have learned to live with as a society. 

5. Cyberattacks will grow in sophistication, requiring health systems to ratchet up defense strategies, including AI-powered solutions.

Health care will remain squarely in the crosshairs of cybercriminals around the globe, from nation state actors to private opportunists. In the year ahead, cyberattackers will continue to become more sophisticated, which means defense strategies that worked in 2022 will not be enough for 2023. Health systems will turn to more advanced technology using artificial intelligence to stay ahead of bad actors, who seem to be upping the ante at the speed of light. 

6. As extreme weather events spike, more natural disasters will put health care infrastructure to the test, raising the importance of climate resiliency.

Hospitals and clinics play a vital role in communities in times of natural disaster. With the first El Nino in three years on the way, it will be more important than ever to ensure health facilities can withstand extreme weather events, from hurricanes to wildfires. In 2023, expect a stronger push for climate resilient infrastructure. Meanwhile, the race to decarbonize health care, which is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gases, will continue. With 200 medical journals naming climate change the No. 1 threat to global public health, the imperative to reduce emissions in health care will grow more urgent. 

7. The need for charity care will surge in the year ahead as the economy teeters between inflation and recession and as pandemic-era Medicaid rules come to an end.

Not-for-profit health systems will gear up to assist more people in need in 2023. With economic uncertainties looming, it is likely that many Americans will lose employer-sponsored health coverage due to layoffs. In addition, a rule that required states to keep people enrolled in Medicaid during the public health emergency is expected to end in the coming months, leaving millions without coverage. Health systems will respond by making it easier for patients to apply for and access financial assistance and by helping them re-enroll in Medicaid and other government sponsored programs. Not-for-profit health systems will continue to take this responsibility seriously, especially knowing that the private equity backed providers and new entrants into health care do not hold the same standard of ensuring care for all.

8. Health systems will attract more direct-to-employer contracts by broadening their networks to offer more choice and convenience at an affordable cost. 

Given that employers are the primary payers of health care in the U.S., health systems will work diligently in 2023 to deliver products that meet their needs. In contrast to narrow networks that offer limited choice, health systems will seek partnerships with other providers and services to offer the broadest possible range of quality options, from primary care and mental health to digital products. In this scenario, the key is to build networks by partnering with others, not acquiring them, a strategy that will allow health systems to offer choice without having to take on additional fixed costs.

9. While for-profit insurers enjoy record-breaking profits, the organizations that deliver patient care will face another challenging year ahead, leading to more hospital defaults and closures.

The pandemic years have proven the most lucrative yet for the nation’s for-profit insurance companies, which reported profits as high as 28% in the third quarter of last year. Meanwhile, the health systems that deliver patient care have logged unprecedented operating losses due to the severe shortage of health care personnel, inflation, global supply chain disruptions and other external factors. Not all hospitals will survive the times. Others will further streamline operations in the year ahead and will be faced with tough decisions for ensuring continued access to care despite limited resources. As a result, how and where care is delivered may look very different going forward. 

10. Big tech and other new entrants will not give up their quest to disrupt health care even as they struggle to find their footing.

Though the tech giants continued to make forays into health care last year, they still haven’t quite found a foothold. Their continued attempts to “retailize” care delivery without much success yet speak to the complexity of the space. But that doesn’t mean traditional providers will rest easy. Expect health systems to continue to respond by transforming themselves with a new distributed model of care, a seamless hybrid of in-person, home and virtual experiences, and omnichannel and identity-driven engagement experiences for consumers. Partnerships between health systems and the tech companies will also be critical in accelerating much needed transformation in health care. 

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About Providence 
Providence is a national, not-for-profit Catholic health system comprising a diverse family of organizations and driven by a belief that health is a human right. With 52 hospitals, over 900 physician clinics, senior services, supportive housing, and many other health and educational services, the health system and its partners employ nearly 120,000 caregivers serving communities across seven states – Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, with system offices in Renton, Wash., and Irvine, Calif. Learn about our vision of health for a better world at Providence.org.  

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