At a Glance: 2023 Hospital Trends

The COVID-19 pandemic turned the healthcare ecosystem upside down. Then came economic uncertainty. From staffing shortages to increased operating expenses, to volatility in product supply and unpredictable patient volumes, the balancing act faced by hospitals is more complex than ever.

That means hospitals are looking for solutions that help care teams do more with less, streamline manual tasks and, ultimately, spend more of their time on direct patient care.

“Three years in, the effects of the pandemic remain front of mind for our customers,” notes Mary Henson, general manager, U.S. Hospital Products at Baxter. “As a trusted partner, our job is to understand these strained operating environments with which healthcare providers are working and bring creative, connected solutions that maximize workflow efficiency and help clinicians deliver smarter, more personalized care for patients.”

Below are four trends gaining momentum across the U.S. hospital landscape in 2023.

Trend #1: Evolving group of decision-makers
Historically, the chief medical and chief nursing officers were the main call points and decision-makers in matters related to delivery of patient care. But with margins squeezed and commercial and government reimbursement rates no longer keeping pace with rising costs, the chief population health officer (CPHO) and chief information officer (CIO) are playing an increasingly large role in procurement and capital expenditure decisions.

These decision-makers are considering highly matrixed factors that impact patient care. For the CPHO, that means assessing metrics like chronic illness rates by area code, new trending diseases, and patient risk of readmission and using these data points to inform conversations with health insurers. Similarly, a hospital CIO must balance how a hospital system can support technologically advanced patient care modalities while assessing the cost, potential strain and disruption of training employees on the new technologies, as well as their impact on systems security.

To keep pace with this change, medtech companies must offer technologies that transform how care is delivered. Of particular relevance are solutions that streamline administrative and operational tasks, easy-to-implement, integrated caregiver support tools that deliver more personalized patient solutions, and software that transforms massive amounts of patient and workflow data into intuitive, user-friendly and actionable insights.

Medtech companies must also deliver cost-effective, flexible solutions that meet hospital systems fluctuating needs. Rental programs and long tail contracts for continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) machines, for example, have been viable solutions for hospital systems that experienced increases in critically ill patients during COVID spikes, but may be lacking funding or the need to house these technologies on an ongoing basis.

Trend #2: Expanding care outside the hospital
According to a recent study, over 180 rural hospitals have closed since 2005, with 20 of those closures occurring in 2020 alone. For those that remain, many are forced to eliminate certain wards, such as pediatric and obstetrics units, or greatly reduce inpatient care.

This delicate medical and economic strain isn’t limited to rural hospitals. Hospitals of all sizes are seeking other revenue streams, including further adoption of telehealth services and increasing outpatient procedures at ambulatory centers.

Hospitals are also increasingly expanding the potential of acute care in patients’ home settings. This type of “hospital-at-home” care is made possible in large part due to advancements in remote patient monitoring, predictive analytics and connected care. The concept is attractive for patients because they can go home sooner and recuperate more comfortably, and for hospitals so they provide beds for the sickest patients.  

Trend #3: Increasing focus on cybersecurity
The increase in quantity and sophistication of cybersecurity attacks is growing across electronic health records (EHRs), medical devices, and other critical infrastructure.

In a study published in December 2022, over 370 ransomware attacks were identified as revealing the personal health information (PHI) of nearly 42 million individuals. This figure is likely underreported. At the same time, there is a growing need for small devices inside the hospital to connect and send data to the EHR.

To combat the evolving threat of ransomware and other cybersecurity vulnerabilities, hospitals must spend more time and resources on their IT infrastructure. This could include establishing significant network and cloud security measures, closely monitoring and protecting hospital devices such as laptops, tablets and other devices from malicious activity, and developing training programs and incident response plans with their workforces.

In tandem, medtech companies must develop innovations that incorporate security capabilities by design, rather than after the fact. This means instituting cybersecurity measures across all points of the device and software R&D processes. And, as devices and software programs are installed in hospitals, monitoring systems should be established to catch early signs of trouble.

To further protect from cybersecurity issues, medtech companies, hospitals, and IT teams should contribute to a shared system and process for cataloging cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Becoming a CVE Numbering Authority (CNA) through the Common Vulnerability and Exposures (CVE®) program for example, is one path to support the rapid identification and resolution of cybersecurity issues.

Trend #4: Expanding virtualization and machine learning capabilities
With ChatGPT able to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam in a recent study, some wonder about the role of AI and augmented reality technologies in the hospital. While it’s unlikely that ChatGPT will ever replace the important role clinicians have in healthcare, AI and augmented reality technologies can bring an immersive, engaging experience.

In December 2022, the FDA released guidance on Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in medical devices. As these technologies become more prevalent, augmented reality can increasingly be considered the first – and more cost- and time-effective – step.

For example, instead of sending a technician from the device manufacturer to service a device in the hospital, a hospital-based technician with electro-mechanical skills can service a device through an augmented reality-enabled troubleshooting guide with immersive support, with lower customer and equipment downtime.

Similarly, hospitals and device manufacturers can conduct new product and procedure trainings, like a virtual showroom or ICU that mimics the immersive experience of the device or procedure. This makes training more readily available without requiring travel and time away from the hospital.