Three Emerging Healthcare Technology Trends for 2022: Remote patient monitoring, virtual health, and care navigation

After two years of change, what’s ahead for healthcare in 2022?

The pandemic has served as a forcing function for the rapid adoption of technology. Now, many of the technologies that were launched or improved during COVID-19 are being more fully integrated into existing care models.

As we look ahead, three of the top technology trends for employers to keep an eye on will be virtual health, remote patient monitoring, and care navigation. All expanded in response to COVID-19, and now are becoming part of the new standard of care.

Virtual Health

For many employers, the COVID-19 pandemic created a more dispersed population, as the flexibility to work remotely became a new reality for many workers. This shift led companies to reevaluate their benefits, recognizing that employees need the ability to access care when, where, and how it’s most convenient for them. In order to continue providing employees with easy access to high-quality care, many companies have turned to virtual health.

However, what many organizations have since learned is that standalone virtual solutions often don’t meet people’s needs. In 2022, expect to see increased interest in integrated digital and physical access models. Not only are multiple access points more convenient, but the integration of in-person and virtual health leads to higher utilization and better outcomes.

Additionally, people still value in-person connections with their trusted providers. Premise data shows that there is a lot of variability in how patients choose to access care virtually. As of August 2021, virtual utilization of behavioral health continued to be quite high at 73% of appointments while physical therapy had returned to post-COVID levels with 92% of visits being in-person.

In 2022, organizations are taking healthcare into their own hands by investing in integrated digital and in-person healthcare. By focusing on virtual health technology that interacts seamlessly with in-person offerings, employers can offer their people healthcare that guides them through every step of their care journey.

Remote Patient Monitoring

As patients have grown more comfortable seeking care virtually, the importance of remote patient monitoring (RPM) has also grown. RPM is a set of patient tools that makes it easier to for providers to monitor their health outside of the clinical setting, whether at home or on the go. During virtual primary care visits, RPM helps providers facilitate many of the check-ups that they would traditionally do in a doctor’s office, like blood pressure readings and weight measurements.

Throughout the pandemic, these tools helped many providers continue delivering care without requiring their patients to leave home. Now, as employers adopt more hybrid care models, a combination of virtual health and RPM is poised to help close the access gap by eliminating the need for employees to take time off work, find transportation, or travel a long way for an appointment.

In 2022, benefits leaders should expect RPM to continue expanding beyond chronic condition management and integrating into virtual primary care delivery models. When investing in connected devices, organizations should focus on those that offer flexible and scalable solutions rather than single-use models to avoid point-solution fatigue.

Care Navigation

As mentioned above, the growing focus on virtual primary care delivery does not replace the need for in-person care. When patients need to seek care in person, it is important that their virtual care integrates with local providers who can guide them to downstream care. On top of that, navigating care within the community can be complex and people may not have time to make their health a priority given busy schedules.

Care navigators provide a guided experience through the healthcare ecosystem, helping members seamlessly manage their care, whether that is at their onsite clinic, virtually, or in the community. This simplicity increases employee engagement by offering them one point of entry to all their care needs. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, care navigation has also been critical for patients with confirmed or suspected cases of the virus. Care navigators provide daily check-ins, monitor symptoms, and help members return to work when ready.

Looking ahead to 2022, we expect more employers to invest in virtual health solutions that provide their population with tools to navigate the entire healthcare ecosystem.

Regardless of an employees’ physical location – whether in the office or in a remote environment – providing both in-person and digital access points ensures they can get the care they need in a way that’s most convenient for them. Offering a combination of both removes barriers to care, keeps employees engaged in their health journey, and leads to better outcomes for happier, healthier members. With the right partner and benefits strategy, a tailored direct healthcare solution can create a positive impact for your population.

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