As the U.S. population gets sicker and hospital finances get more bleak, 2023 is shaping up to be an eventful year for healthcare.
On Thursday, consumer research firm Forrester released a report predicting major trends that would shape healthcare next year. Healthcare stakeholders should prepare for key changes, such as care becoming even more inaccessible for rural patients and additional retail entrants into the clinic space.
More hospital closures and bankruptcies
Many hospitals will never be able to recover from their pandemic financial losses, according to Natalie Schibell, a vice president and research director at Forrester. She predicted that this reality will cause a big spike in hospital bankruptcies.
Hospital and health system expenses are expected to increase by nearly $135 billion in 2023, according to Forrester. On top of that, hospitals are facing a bevy of financial stressors, including the increasing cost of labor, the staffing crisis, supply chain woes and inflation. Many hospitals have been able to keep their doors open thanks to federal provisions and other government aid — but as that assistance runs out, some will be forced to shut down.
In fact, Forrester’s research showed that more than 30% of all rural hospitals are at immediate risk of shutting down because of low financial reserves, as well as reliance on government aid.
“We’re seeing lots of risk in rural areas, in which closures have been at a steady accelerated rate since the first decade of the 2000s,” Schibell said. “I mean, since 2013, we’ve seen 100 rural hospital closures. There’s just low patient volumes in those areas. And people are now traveling further to hospitals, because many of them have closed down.”
Scaling retail health clinics
Forrester predicted that retail health clinics will work to double their share of the primary care market in 2023. Amazon, Walmart, Walgreens and CVS are well-established in the retail health clinic space, but more retail companies will join their ranks next year, according to Schibell.
She predicted that more Americans will go to retail health clinics for primary care, especially since hospitals are failing to meet their patient experience expectations amid resource constraints.
“Traditional primary care cannot keep up with the new experiences that consumers are really craving right now,” Schibell said. “There are sweeping shortages in primary care, and that’s not going to get any better, sadly, and most healthcare organizations are still recovering from the pandemic. In comes retail health, and you’re able to get an appointment on the same day or within 24 hours. You’re able to go online in a very convenient manner, pick a provider and pick your time slot.”
Advancement of RPM for chronic conditions
A quarter of the country’s adult population will be treated for chronic conditions with remote patient monitoring tools in 2023, Forrester forecasted. Schibell said these tools can help providers prevent avoidable hospitalizations and the worsening of chronic disease.
It is critical that the U.S. monitor and analyze patients with chronic conditions, especially now as the number of multimorbid patients is increasing, Schibell said. She also pointed out that many Americans’ chronic conditions have been exacerbated by Covid-19 complications that remain poorly understood by medical professionals.
“So there’s people that have been affected by Covid-19, and they may or may not know that their biological systems have been permanently affected,” Schibell explained. “And it could be in a number of ways, from loss of taste to issues with the heart. A lot of this is unknown, yet, it’s going to compound the problem, as people already have these chronic diseases.”
Photo: elenabs, Getty Images