Healthcare trends for 2022

Learn about how technology, employee health, health equity and urgent care centers will change in 2022.

Healthcare trends for 2022

While the COVID-19 pandemic put the world on pause for the past two years, the healthcare industry has continued to advance. Technology continues to be one of the main advancements, transforming the industry for both professionals and patients. Now, thanks to wearable devices, virtual reality, and digital therapeutics, patients are better able to manage their health daily, and health workers are better trained and informed to care for their patients.

While it’s no secret that the pandemic has put a tremendous strain on the healthcare industry, a few good things have emerged as a result. For one, businesses are placing a greater emphasis on employee health, which will mean a healthier workforce and population in the long run. Health equity has also come to the forefront as the pandemic cast a harsh light on how access to quality healthcare can impact a person’s chances of survival. And urgent care centers have multiplied, reducing the burden on emergency rooms and allowing patients to receive treatment faster.

Below, learn more about some of the healthcare trends you can expect to see in 2022.


Technology will continue to transform patient healthcare

Patient health will continue to benefit from advancements in technology. Everything from smartwatches to virtual reality to digital therapeutics will help patients better manage their physical and mental health daily. And, as virtual reality continues to gain acceptance as a training platform, healthcare workers will see new opportunities to improve their skills.


Smartwatch sales continue to increase

Smartwatch sales have continued to rise, and a new, older population is embracing them due to the improved health features. These watches have made it much easier for patients to monitor everything – from their exercise and sleep to their heart rate. Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved many of these watches. These devices can actually save lives by detecting the early warning signs of cardiac arrest. Plus, some can also identify conditions like sleep apnea, detect seizures and even send out an emergency notification when the wearer is experiencing a medical emergency or has fallen.

It’s believed that 2022 will bring about even more monitoring options. For example, Apple plans to add the ability to monitor your blood pressure and to track fertility with a wrist thermometer. Amazfit is just one of several other brands that have recently launched or are planning to launch new smartwatches. Their additional health features will include 24-hour heart rate and oxygen level monitoring and even individualized health scores based on the impact of physical activity on the users’ heart. And, of course, Meta, formerly Facebook, plans to launch a smartwatch (with a camera!) in 2022. While we don’t have the details of which health features it will include, we’re sure the device will incorporate some.

As a medical professional, your patient’s smartwatch can provide you with valuable data to help you understand and solve various medical concerns. For example, new features may allow you to monitor the impact of a new drug, your patient’s recovery status after an operation, and more.


Virtual reality

Gaming is revolutionizing the healthcare industry. Interns and medical professionals now use virtual reality (VR) to improve their skills, learn new ones and practice complex surgical procedures. As the trend continues to grow, expect to see virtual reality simulations to help healthcare workers prepare for various emergency situations, including hospital blackouts or disasters.

Virtual reality will also continue to help patients. Recent research has shown that VR can help people with autism spectrum disorder acquire the daily living skills they lack, helping them become more independent. VR will also make inroads in the treatment of anxiety and depression. It can even help with the chronic stress many have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Digital therapeutics

While there are numerous digital options available for healthcare, digital therapeutics are products approved by regulatory bodies to treat conditions and diseases. In June 2020, the FDA approved the first game-based digital therapeutic device, designed to improve attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in patients ages 8-12 years old. This game, EndeavorRX, delivers therapy through an immersive video game experience and requires a prescription. Expect to see more game-based therapeutics and applications like this in 2022.


A healthier workforce

For far too long, employees felt the need to keep their health and mental health diagnoses a secret from colleagues and superiors. But thanks to the pandemic, these issues are now stepping into the limelight. In 2022, expect to see a more significant focus on employee health, translating to healthier patients, in several ways:

  • Employees will gain increased opportunities to work remotely, even as the workforce resumes in-office schedules.
  • Employers will become more involved in government policies surrounding healthcare.
  • Employers will provide better options and access to mental health services, including virtual therapy.
  • Employers will request input from employees about the health-related services they provide.
  • Larger companies will continue to roll out proprietary healthcare offerings.


Increased health equity

Social determinants of health (SDOH) – where a person lives and works, as well as their education, financial situation and age – can significantly impact a patient’s health. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, examples of SDOH include:

  • Safe housing, transportation and neighborhoods
  • Racism, discrimination and violence
  • Education, job opportunities and income
  • Access to nutritious foods and physical activity opportunities
  • Polluted air and water
  • Language and literacy skills

When patients have limited access to quality healthcare, they may struggle to manage chronic conditions and receive medical treatments. However, the government, healthcare providers and policymakers are beginning to address this issue. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is partnering with various communities to prevent childhood lead poisoning, reduce health disparities related to diabetes and even develop health interventions for specific cultures and communities. In addition, multiple states, such as Massachusetts, have created programs to help individuals who experience SDOH. And locally, cities such as Minneapolis, New York City and Buckhead in Atlanta have provided people with better access to healthy foods and created initiatives to reduce gun violence.


Urgent care centers will continue to grow

In 2020, the average number of patients visiting an urgent care center per day was 58% higher than during the previous three years. While we can thank the COVID-19 pandemic for that dramatic increase, experts predict that even as we get the pandemic under control, urgent care centers will continue to make gains, with the global market reaching $40.7 billion by 2027.

Urgent care centers benefit both patients and the healthcare industry by reducing overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms and providing patients with quick access to medical care for non-life-threatening matters. Plus, they are generally more affordable than a visit to the ER. In 2021, the number of urgent care centers in the U.S. is expected to increase by 6% from 2020. Expect to see additional new centers open in 2022.


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