What You Should Know:
– Azalea Health Innovations Inc. (Azalea Health or Azalea), a leading provider of cloud-based patient management and health IT solutions shares 4 predictions for the new realities of rural healthcare in 2022 and how IT solutions can help them rise to the challenges.
– Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare system is in a precarious position as labor shortages and ever-increasing cyberattacks threaten hospitals’ recovery from COVID-19. However, there are new opportunities for providers to embrace consumerism and address social determinants of health (SDOH).
Here are four rural healthcare IT predictions to watch in 2022:
1. Hospitals Will Need to Simplify Workflows In Response to Staffing Shortages
Two years of COVID-19 have taken their toll. As burned out healthcare professionals continue to leave the workforce in 2022, traveling nurses will be in high demand, particularly in rural areas. However, rural providers will need to compete with larger and wealthier hospitals, whose recruiters will poach staff with lucrative offers. To ease the strain on the remaining staff and stem the tide of burnout, hospitals will need to simplify their digital workflows. This will reduce the time staff need to spend with the hospital IT systems and allow them to spend more time with their patients. Meanwhile, data analytics will enable staff to focus their limited time on the patients at greatest risk.
2. Ransomware and Other Cyberattacks Get Worse
2021 is on track to be the worst year ever for ransomware attacks on healthcare. 2022 will likely be worse. Healthcare is an ideal target: with lives on the line, providers are more likely to pay ransoms to restore IT services, and private health data is lucrative to sell on the dark web. Ransomware-as-a-service has also made it easier than ever to launch an attack. The potential cost of an attack (the median ransom is $75,000) makes cybersecurity one of the most important investments hospitals should be considering today. That said, rural providers’ lean IT teams as well as limited budgets will constrain their investments, making it critical to invest in health IT platforms that make these critical investments for them with built-in security solutions.
3. Providers Embrace Influencer Marketing
Whether on TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook, a growing number of providers are finding success with influencer marketing. Doctors that become internet celebrities are often booked for months. This trend has been aided by telehealth, which has enabled healthcare practitioners to see patients outside of their immediate geographic area. As healthcare becomes increasingly consumerized, more providers will make strategic investments in social media as a new form of engagement to attract both patients and fresh talent, particularly in light of the previously mentioned labor shortages facing rural providers.
4. Health Systems Leverage Technology to Address Health Equity
The pandemic brought new focus on health inequities, as long disadvantaged communities experienced worse outcomes from COVID-19. Rural areas are particularly vulnerable, with high rates of poverty, food deserts, poor infrastructure and limited access to health services. New investments in broadband access in the bipartisan infrastructure bill will help close the digital divide in these areas, allowing more patients to access the benefits of telehealth and patient portals. Meanwhile, data-driven analytics will enable rural providers to better understand the impact of the different social determinants of health (SDOH) on their population, aiding in applying for grants for community benefit programs.