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Four healthcare predictions for 2024

By Bipin Mistry, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Alight Solutions

From rising healthcare costs to increasing use of AI for patient care and navigation, Bipin Mistry, MD, shares his predictions for healthcare in 2024 and the changes that may impact the longitudinal support offered by employers.  

As we look to the year ahead, we can expect an emergence of new healthcare technologies and improved clinical outcomes. But transformations and innovations across certain sectors of healthcare won’t negate many of the system-wide challenges we face. 

 The U.S. alone has already seen an increase in hospital bankruptcies and financial distress. This, coupled with the growing decline of Americans’ mental health and a system suffering staggering strain, has employers at a continued crossroads. 

 How do you offer rich healthcare benefits while keeping the costs down? And how do you help employees get the most value from the benefits offered?

 Where multiple point solutions are commonly used to address these types of issues, 2024 will require a whole new set of priorities. Improved partnerships, purposeful healthcare literacy and more strategic communications and engagement plans are some initiatives employers will need to prioritize to overcome the changes in store. 

 Here are my healthcare predictions for 2024:

1. Rising Medical Spend

 For the past several years, company spend on healthcare has averaged 6-8%. Unfortunately, spend is predicted to hit double-digit numbers for 2024. Some of the reason for this is continued catchup from the pandemic; people are scheduling surgeries and other medical procedures they put off having for several years. 

Additionally, hospitals are demanding more for their services than we have seen historically. We’re looking at a financial crunch on the supply-side of medical care. 

The good news is, I think the spike is temporary. The bad news is, I define temporary as the next one-to-two years, not just 2024. This is why it’s now critical that employers understand the value of the benefits they’re delivering and invest in guidance that helps employees find the right care at the right time. A solid communications strategy can help ensure that employees sign up and engage in the healthcare benefits they need to manage chronic conditions and avoid unnecessary expense.

2. Declining Mental Health

 Whether it’s anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide or general stress, mental health in the U.S. continues to decline. And new studies paint a grim picture of how barriers to care are intensifying the crisis. 

Currently, mental health offerings vary vastly from employer to employer, with many relying solely on employee assistance programs (EAP) to help their workforce stay well. For 2024, however, I predict that EAP will not be enough to avert mental unwellness among employee populations. Employers must develop better transition strategies that help a person move from EAP to appropriate therapy, whether that be in the form of virtual care from an app or in-person appointments. Keep in mind, leaves of absence increase when there are gaps in mental health support. 

Resiliency programs are another avenue employers can pursue to help with early intervention and support a healthy workforce. While the training used to identify individuals who may be struggling may look different from company to company, the idea is to have a strategically solid plan for giving employees the care they need and helping them re-enter the workforce once wellness has been established.

3. Rapidly Evolving AI

 When it comes to consumer-facing AI in healthcare, there are some interesting developments taking place with generative AI. While multiple sources of information are already being delivered directly to patients at the point of care, we can expect this to increase rapidly in 2024. 

The time spent on the administrative tasks that often get in the way of patient care will be reduced, and healthcare literacy will get a significant boost. Essentially, there will be better coordination between providers and patients. And while this no doubt brings a dose of good to a complex and crowded space, generative AI comes with risks. 

Companies and their external vendors need to be very clear in their intent for using AI in healthcare navigation. Data points must be checked regularly to avoid bias and ensure compliance and greater clinical confidence is needed. 

Expect to see legislative measures roll down the pipeline eventually, but for the near future, transparency must be built into models of operation now. 

4. Social Determinants Having Greater Impact

Both environmental changes and social determinants will impact healthcare in big ways in 2024. As we continue to deal with stressful climate events and a subsequent rise in bills (energy, utility, etc.), peoples’ financial situations will change. From a public health perspective, awareness and understanding of this change can help the supply side of care better prepare for patient needs. 
For employers, there must be awareness of primary and preventative care that is promoted at the navigation level. Literacy is often a barrier that stands in the way of seeking these services, as is finding quality and culturally competent providers and trust. 

Next, organizations need more granular and precise data on their populations' social risks and how they are engaging with healthcare today to inform the overall benefits design. And, finally, when it comes to reaching those employees that traditionally do not access their benefits, using available SDOH data to improve upon engagement strategies. This might look like imagery that represents and is relatable to the people you are trying to reach. It could also mean mail and paper-based communications would better unlock engagement in some cases, especially if you have data that says digital literacy is low or internet access is poor. 

This year especially, there is a true opportunity and willingness by organizations to partner with their benefits vendors, allowing them to be more prescriptive, and co-develop a roadmap on how they might better understand and address the unmet needs of their people through their services and communication strategies. 

How Alight Can Help

At Alight, we drive value-based care through data, high participant engagement with AI personalization, and higher quality care paths that help employers and their people achieve better outcomes. Through our AI chatbots and analytics, we’re improving the accuracy, efficiency and personalization that HR departments can deliver. 

As we approach 2024, I’m eager to see how the shift in focus from reactive to preventative care builds healthier populations and lessens the burden on an overwhelmed system. And while challenges may lie ahead in newer technologies, I see an opportunity to be purposeful – to use these challenges to help people make more informed choices that improve their quality of life and overall wellbeing.  

As always, I wish you and yours a healthy and happy holiday season.

Bipin Mistry, MD
Bipin Mistry, MD
By Bipin Mistry, MD

Bipin Mistry, MD is Chief Medical Officer at Alight Solutions. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and obtained his medical degree at Kings College School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of London and an MBA from Babson College. He is passionate about value-based care and issues connected to the advancement of health equity.

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