For most of us, 2022 was a tumultuous year, fraught with critical healthcare challenges, economic and trade downturns, and unprecedented geopolitical conflict. Nonetheless, as we look ahead to the new year, I have never felt more committed to our mission or more excited about our purpose here at Force Therapeutics, and I wanted to share my take on what lies ahead in 2023 for the digital health landscape.
1. COVID-19 impact on workforce endures
At the beginning of 2022, I felt sure that COVID-19 was finally in the rear-view mirror, only to be forced to accept its lingering impact on the healthcare industry. Not only have staffing challenges and staff burnout persisted among healthcare stakeholders, but the ever-evolving nature of how we work has also created instability and uncertainty as health system employees strive to determine the right construct for their own physical and mental wellbeing.
In the year ahead, these challenges are unlikely to abate; in fact, one can expect to see an increase in unionized job actions as workers look to secure new and/or renegotiated agreements that address concerns regarding pay, burnout, and insurance in particular. In the first week of 2023, for example, we have already seen thousands of nurses in New York warn of an impending strike action following the expiration of their union contracts. This, of course, is not a US-specific trend, as we have seen similar action being warned by NHS staff in the UK.
For those of us in the healthcare industry, 2023 will require a difficult balancing act between the desire to implement solutions that address the most pertinent challenges and a lack of liquidity (discussed further below) to invest in such initiatives. This may culminate in further pressure on legislatures to implement solutions that provide additional funding and resources to the market.
2. Recession fears, dry capital markets, and reimbursement cuts
As inflation climbed to historic highs and interest rates followed throughout 2022, we were bombarded with threats of a global recession in 2023. The challenging financial climate, coupled with a downturn in tech markets, saw capital markets tighten up substantially with funding for start-ups declining at a significant rate. This bleak financial outlook has been compounded by the epic collapse of high-profile VC-backed companies whose unethical practices and mismanagement led to their public downfall.
Now that we are in 2023, economists continue to sound the alarm, with the IMF indicating that one-third of the global economy will enter a recession this year. In the US, however, more optimistic outlooks have been presented in recent months, with indications that the US economy may see a significant slow-down rather than enter a full-fledged recession; the IMF has noted that, despite the aforementioned challenges, the US market appears to be more resilient than other major global economies going into 2023 due to a comparatively stronger labor market.
Nonetheless, even if the US avoids the worst of it, the downstream impact from global markets, coupled with extraordinary ongoing geo-political, energy, and trade challenges will make for a difficult year ahead, and stakeholders will likely continue to tighten their belts and look for cost-effective and cost-reducing initiatives and solutions. Of notable concern are the growing budget constraints among health systems, which may lead to a check-box mentality and a one-size-fits-all approach where an emphasis on cost may undermine patient experience and outcomes.
3. Value-based care and the digital health revolution
My optimism for 2023 and beyond stems not only from my confidence in our team’s ability to further expand Force’s position as the premium MSK remote care management platform, but also from many market trends that are gaining steam. In particular, the growing focus on value-based care in past years has continued to gain momentum among health systems, payers, and employers. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this provided an immense boon to digital health applications, along with emergency regulations enabling and incentivizing the use of telehealth.
Having experienced the benefits of digital health solutions first-hand during the public health emergency, providers and payers appear to have more broadly embraced digital care’s propensity to reduce costs, improve outcomes at scale, and expand access to healthcare services, leading to enduring uptake of such solutions.
In the coming year, we will likely see increased emphasis on enabling at-home care and monitoring, particularly as it relates to potential complications and the need for readmission; this will necessitate the utilization of more granular actionable clinical metrics beyond standard patient-reported outcome measures, such as pain, activity level, gait pattern, and range of motion. For strategically positioned providers, this will enable feedback loops from patient homes to points-of-care to enable meaningful and timely care team intervention.
In the past few years, we have seen reimbursement trends supporting provider-driven remote care management as a widely accepted form of treatment. The launch of CPT codes for remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) in 2022 represents a validation of telehealth efficacy and will incentivize optimized, cost-effective care going forward. Moreover, the availability of these codes will further encourage non-operative care pathways, reducing the cost burden on the overall healthcare system.
Notably, this is being accompanied by an apparent growing inclination to dig deeper into value-based care by exploring condition-based bundles and global case management, which will require improved coordination between primary and specialty care providers.
4. Health equity through technology and data analytics
We are also seeing a welcome focus on healthcare access and equity, with CMS releasing a framework for health equity in 2022, including incentivizing collection of social determinants of health (SDOH) metrics to enable more targeted and individualized care.
The perception of telehealth as a cheap digital knockoff for in-person care has morphed into prioritizing it as a critical tool to make care more equitable and accessible to the 89% of US adults who own a smartphone, including those in medically underserved communities. In these populations, prescriptive and validated care management platforms like Force can be a trusted lifeline for underserved populations.
If the last decade was all about data, I believe the next iteration of ‘measuring everything’ will be the presentation of hyper relevant information to decision makers. Many clinicians and executives are suffering from data overload and multiple dashboard fatigue and are starting to push back on yet another data delivery system for them to collate and integrate.
Our ability to contextualize quality information with clinical insights is a true Force differentiator, and I am excited to continue to enhance the value we deliver at the point of care and beyond and how we will enable our provider partners to expand access to care and tailor treatment pathways to suit underserved and disadvantaged populations.
What drives us at Force Therapeutics
I recently spoke to the Force team at a company-wide meeting about the unsustainable cost of healthcare in the US, which is predicted to reach $6 Trillion in the next 3-5 years. Musculoskeletal care consistently ranks as the top cost-driver across the country, representing about one-sixth of the healthcare spending in the United States, about 18%.
I am personally committed to making a difference in the world. It is what keeps me motivated every day to work harder and push the Force mission further. Whether it’s improving the daily lives of patients recovering from injury and surgery or addressing the macro cost/quality healthcare challenges in the US, I am constantly pursuing improved healthcare for all.
I am deeply proud and honored to be on this journey with the Force team and our healthcare partners, administrators, surgeons, navigators, nurses, PTs, and all healthcare stakeholders. I have complete conviction in our purpose and focus for 2023 as we further Force’s mission to increase patient engagement and satisfaction with high quality, clinically validated, remote care.
We believe we have built the right platform and team to tackle the herculean health and humanitarian challenge we need to solve. We trust the capabilities of our teams and care partners to always place the patient at the center of everything we do, and I personally look forward to continuing this journey together with steadfast resolve, resilience, and fortitude.