The top 5 healthcare trends of 2022

The top 5 healthcare trends of 2022

As 2022 winds down, there’s no better time than now to look back at some of the major healthcare trends to emerge this year. Drawing from the healthcare commercial intelligence within our platform, we’ve handpicked five trends that either impacted the industry or are worth keeping an eye on as you budget and plan for 2023.  

  1. Cases of influenza, COVID-19, and RSV are creating a tripledemic 
  2. The future of outpatient care is in the ASC 
  3. Delays in care are starting to level out 
  4. Telehealth utilization has leveled out after pandemic highs 
  5. Life sciences companies are using omnichannel marketing to reach patients in new ways 

Cases of influenza, COVID-19, and RSV are on the rise

‘Tis the season to spread joy, warmth, and good cheer. But if there’s one thing to strongly consider keeping to yourself this year, it’s a respiratory illness. 

Influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV – it causes infections in the respiratory tract) are filling up hospitals with patients of all age groups. According to multiple healthcare experts, the U.S. is now ‘in the midst of a true ‘tripledemic.’”  

In the chart below, we’ve mapped out the shifts in diagnosis volume and unique patients for influenza. 

Percentage change in number of diagnoses for influenza from 2019 – 2022 YTD

Fig. 1. Data is from the Definitive Healthcare ClaimsMx product for 2019 through October 2022. Claims data is sourced from multiple medical claims clearinghouses in the United States. 

Based on the data, we can make some interesting comments.  

There was a downtick in flu activity with diagnoses dropping 86% from 2019 to 2021. This unusual decline can likely be attributed to COVID-19. The CDC states that both influenza and COVID-19 can spread from person to person by inhaling particles that contain the viruses, commonly through coughing, sneezing, or talking. Both viruses can also be prevented from spreading by wearing a face mask, practicing good hygiene, and avoiding close contact in crowded indoor spaces—which could be one explanation for the drop in flu diagnoses in 2021. By 2022, however, we see flu cases on the rise again.  

Despite a resurgence in the summer, there was a 21% reduction in COVID-19 diagnoses in 2022 so far. As of October 2022, there are more than 23 million diagnoses, though this number may increase as end-of-the-year data rolls in. The popularity of at-home testing might also contribute to fewer COVID-19 diagnoses reported this year, as there isn’t a medical claim to submit as a result. And while diagnoses are down across all age groups, diagnoses for the most vulnerable populations (0-5 and 65+) aren’t decreasing as much as the others.  

Conversely, cases of the respiratory syncytial virus are on the rise. RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. While most people recover in a week, it can be especially serious for infants, as RSV can cause pneumonia and bronchiolitis. This is reflected in our data when comparing the number of unique patients with RSV from October 2021 to October 2022. There were 34% more unique patients in the 0-5 age group with RSV in October 2022.   

The future of outpatient care is in the ASC 

One lasting impact of COVID-19 is that patients are looking beyond the walls of a hospital room to receive the care they need. In early January, we published “The shifting point of care to ambulatory surgery centers,” a whitepaper that explored the reasons why more people prefer to receive outpatient care at an ASC over a hospital.  

Recent data, however, shows that fewer procedures were performed at an ASC in 2022 so far compared to last year. The table below has the latest statistics: 

Trends in outpatient care in ASCs from 2019 – 2022 YTD


Percentage of Total Claims 







2022 through October



As a percentage of total outpatient surgical claims across all care settings, procedures performed at ASCs have steadily increased from 14% in 2019 to 16.3% in 2022 so far. Despite this, the number of both patients visiting and procedures performed at ASCs decreased in the millions in 2022 compared to the prior year. This is a part of a broader trend in healthcare, as procedures and patients across many care settings (hospitals, urgent care, SNF, etc.,) have declined this year.  

The table below shows recent figures for hospitals: 

Trends in outpatient care in hospitals from 2019-2022 YTD


Percentage of Total Claims 







2022 through October



Outpatient procedures in hospitals have decreased in the millions during the same time period. The percentage of total claims decreased from 50% in 2019 to 48.3% in 2022 so far.  

Multiple factors contribute to why patients are choosing ambulatory surgery centers over hospitals. One piece of the puzzle is that these facilities took on the volume of patients from hospitals that halted elective procedures or were unable to see them during the pandemic.  

While COVID-19 isn’t the sole driver of this shift in care, our healthcare commercial intelligence informs us that ASCs may potentially be a preferred venue even as many hospitals resume elective procedures. In our whitepaper, we identified that increased positive clinical outcomes, overall economic savings, and market acquisition activity all contributed to the growth of ASCs.  

Check out our infographic for more on the latest trends in ASCs.  

Delaying care has had consequences 

Another way COVID-19 impacted the healthcare landscape was how it led to a halt in elective surgical procedures and caused patients to delay seeking care.  

According to a poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “nearly 1 in 5 American households has had to delay care for serious illness” due to the coronavirus. And 76% of those households reported they had a negative health outcome as a result. In 2020 alone, there were an estimated 140,000 deaths related to delayed care, according to the CDC and the New York Times. 

Robert Musslewhite, CEO of Definitive Healthcare, shared a few examples of the consequences of delaying care in his keynote at Definitive LIVE! There was a(n): 

  • 11% decline in the number of female patients receiving mammograms from 2019 to 2020. 
  • 3% increase in the number of female patients diagnosed with breast cancer. 
  • 11% decline in preventive care & glucose monitoring visits for Type 2 diabetes patients in 2020. 
  • 12% increase in the number of claims filed for Type 2 diabetes patients receiving inpatient care.  

However, current data indicate that patients may no longer be delaying care as much. Our data shows a reduction in claims and patients for breast cancer and Type 2 diabetes from 2021 to October 2022, a sign that people may be receiving more mammograms or glucose monitoring, respectively.  

While patients possibly are more willing to receive the care they’ve deferred, there aren’t enough healthcare workers to treat them. COVID-19 (as well as many other factors) contributed to a healthcare staffing shortage crisis in the U.S. Listen to a more in-depth discussion on the topic in episode 15 of Definitively Speaking: Best practices for staffing with Anthony Gentile of Katon Direct.  

Telehealth utilization falls from pandemic highs 

Regular readers of our blog know we’ve covered the impact telehealth has had on the healthcare industry in detail. Even though the benefits of telehealth were championed by healthcare providers for years before the pandemic, it was COVID-19 that triggered explosive growth and adoption. 

By 2022, though, it seems like that growth has come to an end. Telehealth isn’t going anywhere, mind you, but as more patients try the technology, it’s likely they’ve decided whether or not it is their preferred mode of communication.  

The data below charts the gradual rise and fall of telehealth encounters from 2016 to October 2022. 

Telehealth encounters from 2016 – October 2022 

Telehealth utilization was at an all-time high in 2020, with more than 80 million encounters tracked for that year. Encounters have lessened since, with about 68 million encounters as of October 2022. It’s likely this downward trend will continue as providers and patients determine how telehealth best fits their needs. 

However, within the mental health space, telehealth has proven to be an effective solution for both patients and providers. Seven of the top ten telehealth diagnoses this year had ICD-10 codes related to mental health conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and PTSD. Telehealth is effective in treating these conditions, likely due to the social stigmas surrounding mental health. The American Psychiatric Association states that patients may be drawn to telemedicine because it offers a safe and secure space to talk about possibly uncomfortable subjects in the privacy of their own homes. The APA also reports that telepsychiatry is comparable to in-person care in terms of care quality, reliability of assessment, and clinical outcomes.  

Despite this downward trend in telehealth utilization, it still serves a valuable role in the physician’s toolbox. Beyond being an accessible and convenient way to engage with a doctor; telehealth has also been linked to reducing avoidable readmissions, lightening the burden of the ongoing staffing shortage, and alleviating feelings of burnout.  

On the other hand, telehealth’s weaknesses are clear. Healthcare specialties that use complex medical devices or machinery to examine, diagnose, and treat patients aren’t always a good fit for telehealth. Patients in rural areas have also historically had trouble accessing telehealth care. Also, telehealth has made healthcare providers the targets of cyber security attacks.  

We dig deeper into telemedicine and virtual care trends in episode two of the Definitively Speaking podcast: Virtual care is where you want to be with Dan Trencher. 

Life sciences companies are using omnichannel marketing to reach patients in new ways  

In case you’ve been living under a rock for a while, you may have missed the hottest buzzword your marketing team is talking about: omnichannel marketing. This new approach to engaging with customers is booming in the world of life sciences if a quick pull of Google Trends data is any indication. 

Interest in omnichannel marketing from 2020 - 2022

Omnichannel marketing is a customer-centric strategy that helps you connect to customers, deliver a holistic brand experience, and sell products. It uses data to identify which channels customers engage with and how, when, and why customers interact with specific products. With this information, your organization can develop meaningful, targeted strategies for customer outreach.    

For a primer on what an omnichannel marketing strategy is and how adopting one may give you a leg up on the competition, you can read our blog, “Target and win customers with an omnichannel strategy.” 

For tips, best practices, and common challenges, read our eBook, “Developing an omnichannel strategy for life sciences,” by Ashley Volling and Mike Steward. Think of this eBook as your guide to the key fundamentals of developing an omnichannel strategy, how it can help your company reach your customers in new ways, and deliver a consistent and personalized experience.  

So much data, so little time! 

You didn’t think that was all that happened in healthcare this year, right? If I unpacked all the trends Definitive Healthcare covered in 2022, you’d be reading this blog until the end of 2023. That’s why, for your reading pleasure, I’ve included links to many of the other top trends in healthcare we’ve reported on.  

  • The top 10 healthcare trends following COVID-19: This is the beginning of a four-part blog series explaining and expanding upon Robert Musslewhite’s keynote presentation at Definitive LIVE! 
  • Is personalized care really here?: Explore the trends and advancements driving growth in precision medicine. 
  • Addressing the staffing shortage: Our data-driven perspective on the causes and obstacles defining the healthcare staffing shortage, and the potential solutions striving to address this nationwide crisis. 
  • AI in healthcare study: We surveyed 132 healthcare providers and executives about how their organizations use AI/ML to improve care outcomes, develop more efficient workflows, and more.  
  • The Definitively Speaking podcast: Tune in for data-driven conversations with thought leaders from every corner of the healthcare industry.  

Definitive Healthcare is ready to help you stay on top of the latest trends in healthcare. To see how we can help you navigate this complex landscape, sign up for a free trial today.  

Ethan Popowitz

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Ethan Popowitz

Ethan Popowitz is a Senior Content Writer at Definitive Healthcare. He writes data-driven articles about telehealth, AI, the healthcare staffing shortage, and everything in…

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