Chartis Top Reads – Week of December 12 - December 18, 2021

Our research team breaks down this week’s top healthcare news.


Top Reads Overview

In an age of unprecedented change, staying current has never been more important. Our team at Chartis is curating news most relevant to the healthcare industry and tracking the topics that are trending on seven key issues: high reliability care, digital and advanced technology, financial sustainability, health disparities, the health ecosystem of the future, partnerships, and the provider enterprise. Each week, we break down what’s happening and why it matters.

Health Ecosystem of the Future

The Buzz This Week

One year ago this week, the COVID-19 vaccine was rolled out across the U.S. The vaccines have led to many positive developments in 2021. Over 95 percent of those 65 and older have had at least one shot; the nation’s largest safety net, schools, have mostly been able to reopen; health systems created innovative solutions to treat patients and protect their staff; and telehealth use was accelerated.

There was hope one year ago that by 2022, the pandemic would be a thing of our past. Instead, the U.S. lost an additional 500,000 lives to the disease in 2021. The COVID-19 death toll continues to rise, though with a successful vaccine and approval for a booster, the majority of deaths are those who have remained unvaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates those who are unvaccinated have a 14 times higher risk of death from the disease than those who are fully vaccinated.

With the ongoing pandemic, other healthcare concerns also remain. Hospitals and health systems have not been able to fully recover financially, mostly due to increased expenses over pre-pandemic levels for labor, supplies, and medication. Shortages in the supply chain and workforce are also prevalent. In a nursing retention study from earlier this year, over 20 percent of direct patient care nurses were considering leaving their position within the year, primarily citing insufficient staffing levels, the demanding conditions and emotional toll of the job. Health equity continues to be a serious concern, particularly access to care in rural areas. Over 125 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. All of these challenges will shape the healthcare system in 2022 as we face Year Three of the pandemic.

    Why It Matters

    What should we expect for healthcare in 2022? What can we take away from the past year to create a better next year? Following are five outlooks we anticipate for 2022.

    • Strengthening and diversifying sourcing for the supply chain will be a key strategic priority to reduce health system costs. Markups for personal protective equipment (PPE) were up to 6000 percent during early days of the pandemic in 2020. While N95 masks are no longer seeing astronomical price hikes, the supply chain problem has continued in 2021, with over 90 percent of health system executives reporting supply chain shortages. For 2022, many health systems have invested in predictive modeling tools to help better estimate supply chain needs. Additionally, many hospitals are considering increasing their supply chain capacity and moving away from just-in-time inventory management, diversifying manufacturing sites, partners, and geographies so products are not solely sourced. They are also building their own new product development and innovation groups, including technologies to reuse or repurpose certain supplies.
    • Labor shortages will persist and could lead to further burnout and error. 61 percent of physicians surveyed by The Physicians Foundation in 2021 said they frequently experience feelings of burnout. 90 percent of nursing leaders surveyed expect a nursing shortage post-pandemic. The clinician shortage already exists, and if providers continue to leave the workforce in greater numbers than there are new entrants, workforce needs and burnout will only be exacerbated. High levels of burnout are shown to lead to increased medical errors and worse patient outcomes. Training programs and ensuring all roles are working at the top of their license will be vital to address workforce shortages in the near term.
    • Health disparities in rural America will remain. Lack of access to care, higher rates of chronic conditions, social disparities, and lower vaccination rates in rural America have led to COVID-19 mortality rates that are twice as high as urban areas. Federal aid and support is needed to provide better access to these communities, including through virtual care.
    • The pandemic has created an increase in behavioral health needs and growth of alternative models, specifically virtual care, will be necessary to meet demand. Nearly half of all adults reported some form of behavioral health need during the pandemic. For caregivers, 70 percent reported adverse mental health symptoms. Specific populations, including Black, Native American, Hispanic, Asian American, and LGBTQ groups, also responded that they had experienced higher rates of stress and mental health concerns and often had difficulty accessing care due to cost and insurance coverage. Drug overdoses saw the highest 12-month total ever recorded. Virtual and other innovative care models coupled with reimbursement reform are needed to meet the significant demand.
    • Alternative sites of care, specifically hospital at home, will continue to see an increase in patients. The pandemic created an urgent push for alternative sites of care as many patients without COVID-19 have wanted to avoid inpatient stays and emergency room care. There has also been a need to manage less critical COVID-19 patients remotely as beds and ventilators have been limited. Reimbursement had previously been a limiting factor for hospital at home, but COVID-19 aided in payment reform for alternative sites of care. Hospitals and health systems will need to continue to think about their assets beyond the four walls of the hospital. Hospital at home models enabled by remote patient monitoring technologies will be part of the future shift.

    Contributors

    Roger A Ray, MD
    Chief Physician Executive
    [email protected]

    Alexandra Schumm
    Principal, Vice President of Research
    [email protected]

    Abigail Arnold
    Senior Research Manager
    [email protected]


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