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The U.S. health system faces significant challenges from shifting demographics to staffing shortages to an increasing need for more personalized health outcomes.

To make progress in addressing these in 2024, health agency leaders must make further strides to facilitate comprehensive views of health data, systems, and services to improve health outcomes for all.

The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) recently released data that showed the U.S. needs more than 17,000 additional primary care practitioners, 12,000 dental health practitioners, and 8,200 mental health practitioners. In combination with clinical staffing shortages, the country faces a rapidly aging and diversifying population that adds additional stress on the healthcare system. Federal demographics studies project that 1 in 5 Americans will be 65 years or older by 2030 – nearly four times the number of seniors a century ago – and that figure could stretch existing systems beyond their limits.

With these vast changes comes the greater need for equitable, personalized services at scale and a deep understanding of the customer experience (CX) journey required to inform the technology roadmap and importance of insightful data to enable positive health outcomes and positive service experiences.

Across the federal government, health agencies have set goals to improve CX, delivering services in a more timely, efficient manner. With proper considerations for these improvements, health agencies can better serve citizens and increase their trust in the government. As the COVID-19 public health emergency formally ended, roughly two-thirds of Americans said they trusted health agencies, such as NIH and CDC, as a result of the services and information they received.

How Technology Can Help

Critical to improving CX is personalization of care, which considers individuals’ medical history as well as their personal circumstances, ranging from family to income, to discuss patient preventative care and tailor treatment. This level of personalization has always been a hallmark of quality healthcare, but today health organizations have far more tools at their disposal to achieve this goal of higher quality service.

Advanced technology capabilities including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), data analytics, and automated customer self-service from any device are already helping to enable more detailed personalization. Through emerging technology advancements, federal agencies and providers will have access to advanced customer service tools, analytics, forecasting data, and reporting that will allow them to better prepare for serving a broader public.

In particular, technology can automate myriad tasks that are currently done manually, from medical billing to records management. Automating and modernizing these processes will have tangible benefits in the form of higher quality care and faster response to their healthcare needs.

As an example, The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, known as the CMS Innovation Center, has been created to develop and test new service delivery models to improve patient care and lower costs.

Why Whole Health Matters

An individual’s wellbeing is not determined by just one aspect of their health; therefore, health organizations need to focus on the totality of their care. The ultimate goal is a “Whole Health” approach for the patient, which is a result of the Amazon Effect as everyone expects instant answers and instant results based upon their interactions with consumer companies.

For example, an older military Veteran who lives in Maryland will receive social security benefits from the state, VA benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and, if needed, housing or mental health support from other agencies. It would be more beneficial if that Veteran could access all of these services in one place.

This “secure digital front door” would be a welcome departure from siloed government services and paper forms that are very difficult to track and manage services, either for themselves or by caregivers. Instead, a veteran could leverage technology to manage and improve their experience, gain quality care, integrate services, and achieve the goals of Whole Health.

This philosophy is fortunately gaining traction, with the VA being one of the leading agencies moving it forward through pilot programs. The agency’s Whole Health program centers around what matters to the patient, not what is the matter with them. It is designed to enable an entire medical team to get to know the Veteran as a person, before developing a personalized health plan based on their values, needs, and goals.

What Should Healthcare Look Like?

Looking to the future, federal health leaders understand that we have a provider shortage, a population that is aging and diversifying, and a responsibility to do more to serve them.

It is a monumental task, but we have the tools and technology available.

We can support greater personalization of care through the modernization of the care delivery model. That will guide us to the Whole Health promised land.