Here we go again; another year, another prediction post. The Chilmark team has reviewed countless other predictions for 2022 and found most quite lacking – usually just stating the obvious, e.g., “…cybersecurity will be critical in 2022.” And as I noted in our customary review of last year’s predictions, we also at times fall prey to the exceedingly obvious.
Thus, I asked the Chilmark team to push themselves a little harder in looking forward on what we forecast will be the key trends within the digital health sector for 2022. I believe they answered that call, but will leave it to you, dear reader, to decide for yourself.
Intra-industry collaboration will develop to build stronger governance frameworks for AI.
Trust has become an important social currency in the adoption of AI tools. The Wild West (or disorganized) approach used at present is slowing adoption, particularly for clinical applications. In response, leading companies seeking to leverage AI in their solutions will begin to organize for better data governance frameworks, as well as adopting responsible AI processes tailored to healthcare.
US Digital Health solutions will see more growth opportunities internationally than domestically.
Models proven in the US market will see growth outside the country with global employers asking vendors for their services to be provided to their non-US workforce. In addition, private systems will seek to enhance services, and national systems will look to better control costs/trends with such tools. In a space that may be crowded domestically, there may be first mover opportunities elsewhere.
Land grab for provider practices, esp. PCPs as retail (CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Dollar Stores) scales up GTM strategies.
Retail health, healthcare organizations, private equity (PE) and many commercial payers are looking to expand their ambulatory healthcare service offerings — especially primary care practices. This will result in a feeding frenzy for those remaining quality, independent practices. Expect a major acquisition of a PE-backed primary care roll-up by one of the national retail or commercial payers.
Analytics solution vendors bifurcate solutions to serve two markets.
End users are becoming more sophisticated in analytics, with HCOs & payers pulling together significant data science teams. These customers want to build their own solutions on a base curated data platform/data lake. But there still remains a significant market (smaller hospital networks, large IPAs, etc.) that seek solutions that are more “user friendly,” with a range of templated solutions. Think of this as Code vs No Code development environs for analytics.
PHM is Dead, Long Live VBC
PHM is fabulous in concept, but terrible as a business case for most HCOs. The real value/business case is responding to value based care (VBC) contracts, from ACOs to Medicare Advantage and direct employer contracts. In 2022, expect PHM solutions to move away from the buzz to the practicum of delivering VBC business value.
SDoH vendors with deep pockets from 2021 investments struggle to demonstrate ROI on par with those investments.
Social determinants of health (SDoH) are often quite difficult to address in a meaningful time frame; it requires diligence and patience. In 2021 we saw large investments in SDoH solution vendors that will put pressure on these vendors to demonstrate high returns. The complexity of the field, immaturity of the technology, lack of sufficient workflow capabilities, etc. will make early, impressive ROIs challenging and may sour future investments.
Digital and hybrid digital/human navigation services will expand in offerings for employers.
Employers are looking for new and better ways to serve a remote or hybrid workforce, and this is one service being touted. Of course, it comes in many different flavors. Even the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) just had a featured story on the subject. Accolade is seeing good growth with its hybrid service at a much lower price than their full-blown service. In 2021, Grand Rounds acquired Doctors on Demand and rebranded themselves as Included Health. Expect an increase in M&A activity in this space, as solution vendors look to scale these critical services for employers.
Cloud wars pick up the pace.
A key justification for Oracle’s purchase of Cerner was to build out its public cloud platform via industry specific services. Oracle’s move increases the stakes in the cloud battle for healthcare with Amazon’s AWS, Google’s Cloud Platform (GLP) and Microsoft’s Azure all vying for primacy in the healthcare sector – a sector with enormous data volumes and needs. 2022 will see each of these cloud providers aggressively looking to secure key healthcare organizations as they move from generic offerings to industry specific ones (e.g. Anthem’s HealthOS on AWS).
Behavioral health will lead virtual care solutions.
I agree with Alex and hear from a lot of employers, brokers and consultants that I know are wanting more and better BH services. Longstanding issues with health plan behavioral health networks have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Yet the need for behavioral health services has never been greater, and employers will be aggressively seeking solutions for their employees. Virtual care, behavioral health solutions with strong, national service networks will be in high demand.
Significant increase in acquisitions in the AI for operations (AI4Ops) sector.
The big players in the AI4Ops space are rapidly developing end-to-end platforms. This will drive lead to further consolidation, via acquisitions of startups at the bleeding edge of AI4Ops. We go into more depth on this in our latest report, which can be found here.
IPO market for health IT companies will be very active.
We already know of about a half dozen digital health companies planning to IPO in 2022, and are quite sure there are a few we do not know of as of yet. This all makes sense as investors look to cash out of current positions they’ve held for the last five plus years.
Consumer organizations begin organizing in response to the secondary uses of health data, pushing for more direct control of their health data and how it is used.
The techlash raised awareness of personal data and its commodification. Faced with rising healthcare costs, we will begin to see more consumers question how their health data are being used and seek more transparency and control.
Walmart goes all in on healthcare services.
Continuing to roll out their health strategy, Walmart will announce that sections of selected Walmart Supercenters will feature by-the-hour reservable hospital beds and self-service ambulatory surgical options.
That’s it folks, our Baker’s Dozen of the most impactful actions to digital health that will take place in 2022. We trust you will find these useful in your own internal deliberations, and we warmly welcome your perspective via a comment below.
In closing, may 2022 bring true all the hopeful predictions you may have, both personal and professional. And until 2022 rolls onto our calendars, may each of you take time with family and loved ones to enjoy the Spirit of the Season.
John Moore, Founder, Chilmark Research