What Challenges Will Health Care Face in 2022?
— By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.
The health care environment has risen to overcome unprecedented obstacles over the past few years, but there are still challenges on the horizon.
Every New Year brings the promise of opportunity. The health care environment has experienced unprecedented challenges over the past few years, and while workers and systems have risen to the occasion, there are still challenges on the horizon. Among the more consistently identified issues facing health care, the most relevant related to the treatment of obesity are telehealth, the patient/customer experience, health disparities and mental health.
- TELEHEALTH was just establishing its footing when COVID-19 saw its use skyrocket from 11 to 46 percent. An even greater number of patients (76 percent) indicate that they are likely to continue to use telehealth in the future.1
- Pros: Speaking with a health care provider from home can reduce some of the stigma patients with obesity feel. It also limits the need for travel, which can be problematic for some people. For example, MyHealthyJourney, a HIPAA-compliant mobile app and digital solution from Robard Corporation, was developed and launched specifically for the treatment of patients with obesity.
- Cons: While most people have internet service, at-home access and comfort with technology varies widely based on age and income. HIPPA and reimbursement issues also could create obstacles.
- The CUSTOMER/PATIENT EXPERIENCE continues to increase in importance in the highly competitive, health care environment. Patients often use Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Care Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Star Ratings as part of their provider selection process and they are linked to payer incentives.
- Pros: Greater knowledge of weight loss methods and personalized programs lend themselves to a positive patient experience. The convenience, ease of use and portability of Very Low Calorie Diets, such as New Direction for example, mean users are more likely to follow their program. A team approach and use of apps offer opportunities for additional contact and support when users need it most.
- Cons: Patient information within health care systems is often disparate and the absence of a “big picture” view prevents a clear understanding of what stage of the patient journey has the greatest impact on their satisfaction. As such, systems continue to struggle to provide the level of personalization, convenience, quality and communication that characterize this level of service.2
- The pandemic has been a double-edged sword for MENTAL HEALTH. Increased numbers of adults experienced stress and anxiety, but at the same time, telehealth provided effective options for treatment. However, accessibility remains an issue, as does insurance coverage.
- Pros: Since physical evaluations are not necessary, treatment via telehealth is appropriate and convenient. This is particularly relevant for people with obesity who have a higher risk of becoming depressed than healthy weight people.3
- Cons: Despite alternative delivery methods, the shortage of mental health providers means that the demand outpaces resources.
- COVID-19 revealed some ugly truths about DISPARITIES AND EQUITIES in health care, confirming that racial and ethnic minorities are at greater risk of the disease and negative outcomes. The same social determinants at play during the pandemic contribute to greater levels of obesity among these and other populations.
- Pros: Heightened awareness of this gap has pushed this issue to the forefront, making it a much-needed priority.
- Cons: Solutions to the many problems that create inequities are not easy or quick to resolve. Creative responses will be needed at local levels to make an impact where it is most needed.
All of these issues are interrelated and affect not only people with obesity, but the entire population. Improvements to these areas, individually and collectively, will result in better patient-doctor relationships, quicker and more accurate diagnoses, and improved health for all in 2022 and beyond.
About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.