Since the start of the pandemic, the health care industry has been continuously challenged to evolve. Even the very definitions of consumer health and wellness have been reconstructed, raising the bar for both the industry and employers.

As we move deeper into 2022, here are some of the top health care trends experts predict will continue to shape the industry and health benefits this year:

1. Honing in on health care cost savings and affordability.
In the U.S., the rising cost of care and access to prescription medications have become a real problem for many consumers—in fact, according to a recent report by Gallup, one in five adults can’t afford quality care. Moreover, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that of the 61,000 adults in Rhode Island who needed mental health care and did not receive it during the pandemic, 32.8% avoided care because of cost. While legislative policy changes such as the No Surprises Act aim to improve cost transparency and prevent financial strain, employers can partner with their health benefits carrier to help make a difference, too. By taking action to improve health literacy through plan decision support and benefits education, and offering online health savings tools, employers can help their workforce make financially smarter health care decisions.

2. Continued advancement and use of telehealth.
The pandemic has shown the many ways that remote health care and virtual doctors’ visits can be a convenient and efficient means of receiving care. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in 2020 Rhode Island was among the states with the highest telehealth use. However, there are still gaps to address—a new study by HHS revealed that among telehealth users, 69% earned at least $100,000, 62% were white and 66% had private insurance. For those with access, the enhancement of wearables and other monitoring tools have now made it possible to treat chronic illnesses remotely. Experts predict that in the coming year, we can expect to see providers from different health care specialties increase application and investments in smart technology, from virtual reality to machine learning, to treat diverse health needs remotely. Employers can look to their health benefits carrier to help ensure they’re offering the best virtual care options to keep up with this shift.  

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 3. Focus on improved physical and mental well-being.
Amid the Great Resignation and burnout from two years of the pandemic, well-being has been and will continue to be a primary focus in 2022. This year, employers will continue to grow their wellness offerings to address emotional, physical and financial health. According to a recent Gartner analysis, employees who do utilize such programs report improved mental and physical health, and even sleep. Also, alternative care, such as acupuncture and chiropractic (for which Tufts Health Plan covers an unlimited number of visits) is being increasingly viewed as a key element of a more modern approach toward preventive care. 

4. Prioritizing health equity as the industry moves forward.
Within all the health care trends this year, keeping vulnerable and at-risk populations top of mind will be a primary focus. Especially as technology continues to evolve, using it to find ways to improve health care access and delivery for all will be just as important as advancing the technology itself. In addition, parts of the health care system are beginning to take more proactive roles in addressing social determinants of health that could potentially cause inequities in the system. 

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Fairness and equity will also emerge in the workplace with personalized benefits. For example, some companies have already started to offer targeted benefits for specific segments of their workforce, such as providing additional childcare support for employees who are unable to take advantage of flexible work options.

These emerging trends will shape both the health care industry and health benefits in the year ahead. By taking note, employers and brokers alike can be prepared to support their workforce. Learn more about how Tufts Health Plan can help with this support.