The last few years have been a hectic time in the world of healthcare. Trends, developments and medical discoveries spread faster than ever, and can change the landscape of the industry overnight. While no one can perfectly predict what this year has in store for healthcare companies, it is possible to look back on 2023 and project the trends that will define the next 12 months. Before you enter the new year underprepared, here are 5 trends that could very well define the present and future of the healthcare industry.
Educational requirements are getting higher
Across the board, educational requirements for healthcare provider (HCP) roles are rising significantly. Though not happening this year, soon Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) will be required to possess Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees, as opposed to the regular Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) that is currently the minimum requirement.
Since there is a correlation between more highly educated nurses and positive healthcare outcomes, you can expect healthcare facilities to give priority to registered nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees or higher, especially if they are applying for nurse leadership positions. Current HCPs should look into how this could affect their future plans, and whether or not they need to invest in more education.
Online nursing classes will continue to rise in prominence
Last year, analysts noticed the rising prominence of online nursing classes. Remote classes became more widely adopted after the pandemic, and their popularity persists to this very day. HCPs realized that virtual nursing programs give them schedule and location flexibility. Not only can they attend classes anywhere, but they can even pick up “self-paced” online classes that allow students to complete the material at their preferred speed.
This is especially convenient for HCPs who already have jobs. The increased flexibility allows nurses to complete their classes and their current professional obligations, without making major sacrifices to their schedule or routine. Remote classes are also largely more affordable than traditional lessons, which further increases their appeal.
Virtual healthcare services are here to stay
Demand for telemedicine services will not abate anytime soon. The ability to receive a proper diagnosis or prescription through video calls or emails has several obvious advantages. It is especially valuable for rural communities who do not have readily-available healthcare services in their proximity.
Rest assured that telemedicine will not replace regular healthcare services. Certain diagnoses and most treatment options have to be done in person. Instead, it is a powerful alternative for disabled people or individuals who cannot go onsite for treatment, for one reason or the other.
Aging populations will affect the industry
Aging populations suffer from chronic health problems that require persistent medical attention. Although this is not new, people are more aware of the importance of continued healthcare for senior citizens. The BLS has cited this as a major reason as to why demand for healthcare services will continue to see an upward trend. Though not the only reason, this still informs projections that demand for healthcare will grow by up to 12% in 2024.
Aging populations also affect the healthcare workforce itself. Senior HCPs, administrative officials, and staff are approaching retirement age. Some individuals are even considering early retirement, due to the post-pandemic working conditions. This will continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future, as facilities scramble to fill these sudden vacancies.
AI will gain prominence
2023 was defined by the rise of artificial intelligence. More widespread use of programs like ChatGPT or more specialized, proprietary AI models are expected to disrupt several industries in the near future. Healthcare is no exception, as facilities and organizations around the country have already begun to explore AI use cases.
Administrative task management, creating and organizing digital records, clinical decision making and more could be bolstered or run outright by AI programs, eventually. AI powered systems can even synthesize clinical information, and provide insights or recommendations. Expect use of AI throughout the healthcare industry to be normalized and experimented with.
The healthcare shortage is expected to continue
Though we are years removed from the peak of the pandemic, its ramifications can still be felt. Healthcare’s ongoing workforce shortage is expected to persist in 2024 and beyond. Healthcare facilities are still struggling to fill crucial vacancies and meet constantly-fluctuating demand. For the foreseeable future, it is expected that this issue will only continue to worsen.
According to the Hill, the US healthcare industry may see a shortage of over 200,000 nurses and 124,000 physicians. The future of the industry could be decided by how the industry decides to address this in the present. Investments in talent retention, HCP development, and temporary staffing solutions like VitaWerks will be key to the industry’s success in the present as well as the future.