What to Expect from Healthcare in 2022

By Madison Pittman

Forget “normal.”

Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, with new variants popping up around the globe, one thing is abundantly clear: Every aspect of our lives has been affected by the presence of a virus that was previously unknown. Healthcare, education, work, and leisure have been reshaped in response to continually changing conditions.

Though recent experience has taught us all that it’s impossible to predict the future, we feel confident that these three points will shape healthcare in 2022: 

Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades Will Continue to Drive Healthcare Investment

Leapfrog added a new hand hygiene standard to the Leapfrog Hospital Survey (and Leapfrog Ambulatory Surgery Center Survey) in 2019. Since then, hospitals and healthcare systems have invested significant amounts of time and money to boost hand hygiene performance. That investment is wise, as we’ve seen the impact hand hygiene can have on hospitals’ safety grades.

“There have been health systems that have gone from an ‘A’ to a ‘C’ and back again, because of hand hygiene,” says Dr. Chris Hermann, founder and CEO of Clean Hands-Safe Hands. “We worked with a health system that dropped to a ‘C’ because of their hand hygiene metrics. After installing our system and working to improve hand hygiene, their Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade returned to an ‘A’ the following year.” 

According to the fall 2021 report released by Leapfrog on November 10, 2021, 32% of United States hospitals earned an ‘A’ grade; 26% received a ‘B,’ 35% received a ‘C,’ 7% received a ‘D,’ and fewer than 1% got an ‘F.’ These results may not be fully reflective of on-the-ground reality, however, as Leapfrog did not use hand hygiene measures to calculate the fall 2021 safety grades for hospitals that scored in the bottom two performance categories (Some Achievement and Limited Achievement), in response to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s no word yet regarding how Leapfrog will handle hand hygiene scores in 2022, but given the strong link between hand hygiene and patient safety – and the fact that current Leapfrog guidelines require hospitals to tie executives’ performance reviews or compensation to hygiene performance – it’s likely that healthcare systems will continue to invest significant resources to meet recommended hand hygiene standards.

Increased Pay and Sign-On Bonuses Won’t Solve the Nursing Shortage 

We predicted widespread nurse burnout in 2021, and we weren’t wrong. However, we didn’t foresee $30,000-$40,000 sign-on bonuses for Registered Nurses. 

According to Business Insider and the Watertown Public Opinion, Monument Health in South Dakota has offered sign-on bonuses of $40,000 for ICU and operating room nurses. Hospital systems in Georgia, Pennsylvania and elsewhere are offering $30,000 sign-on bonuses for qualified nurses. According to the Wall Street Journal, average nurse salaries increased 4% over the first nine months of 2021, after increasing 3.3% in 2020 and 2.6% in 2019. And yet, hospitals are struggling to fill nursing positions amid the continued strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And the nursing shortage shows no sign of abating. A September 2021 survey by the American Nurses Foundation found that 21% of surveyed nurses planned to leave their jobs within the next six months. Half of those who plan to leave said it was because work was negatively affecting their health and well-being. 

Paying nurses more money does not erase the stress of the job. Nurses need real relief. They need real-time assistance to manage clinical crises and realistic workloads. They need schedules that allow ample time for rest and family. Healthcare systems that work to improve nurses’ working conditions will likely have the most luck with nurse recruitment and retention.

COVID-19 Will Inspire Healthcare Innovation 

“Healthcare has changed more in the past year than during any similar period in modern U.S. history. And it changed for the better,” said Dr. Shantanu Nundy, author of Care After Covid: What the Pandemic Revealed Is Broken in Healthcare and How to Reinvent It, in a May 2021 interview with NPR. 

Telehealth has gained widespread acceptance, and healthcare providers have recognized the importance (and value) of community and home care. Two years into the pandemic, it’s become clear that the fiscal impact of COVID-19 will continue for the foreseeable future, as patients avoid non-urgent healthcare and hospitals cancel elective surgeries in response to COVID surges and staffing crises. Supply chain disruptions are now so common that health systems are increasingly realizing the need for real-time access to medications, personal protective equipment, and critical medical devices. 

Hospitals and health systems that want to survive 2022 cannot return to business as usual. Innovation and investment are necessary to meet the challenges of the future.

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