By Katie Bryski – New year, new chapter! 2023 brought exciting trends and developments to digital health — how will they play out in 2024? As we turn the page, here are some words to watch in the year ahead:
Since 2020, the only certainty has been uncertainty. And with the proliferation of generative AI, active political scenes, ongoing circulation of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, and the acceleration of severe weather and climate events that can exacerbate health concerns, 2024 looks to be no exception.
But uncertain doesn’t mean unprepared. As health professionals and organizations, we have experience facing the unknown — and developing strategies for mitigating it, leveraging what we do know, and finding new ways to add value.
In recent years, we’ve seen heightened awareness of the health sector’s carbon footprint and environmental impacts. But environmental sustainability itself is aligned with preventive care; a recent report by the Lancet Countdown identifies climate change as a significant threat to global health. With 2023 in the books as the hottest year on record and current mitigation efforts on track to lead to warming of three degrees this century, sustainability in health — and sustainability as health — are more pressing than ever before.
But sustainability applies to more than the environment. With continued shortages in health human resources and ongoing conversations about the future of work, a sustainability lens is essential for people and organizations as well. To meet the challenges of tomorrow (and today!), we need to consider how we can best support health sector professionals now.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed that we can adapt swiftly to sudden, significant change. While the abrupt disruption that characterized the pandemic’s early days may have slowed, longer-term change is still underway: in technology, in population and workforce demographics, and in models of work and care delivery.
So it’s no longer just about responding to acute crises. It’s about a mindset that embraces reworking, rewiring, and remapping: turning well-established skills to new purposes, reaching destinations via new pathways, and seeing opportunity in fluidity.
“Authentic” was Merriam-Webster’s 2023 Word of the Year, and it’s lost none of its relevance heading into 2024. As Merriam-Webster notes, authenticity is linked to truth, reality, and identity — all concepts starting to blur amid generative AI, deepfakes, and algorithm-driven discourse. Within and beyond the health sector, we’re facing new questions about who we are, what is real…and how we can know for sure.
So why is authenticity so important? It’s the foundation of solid relationships with stakeholders and partners. It enables people and organizations to make choices aligned with their core values – and to understand the why behind those values. And in an age of AI hallucinations, it ensures we’re using accurate, reliable, factual evidence to inform our decision-making.
Ultimately, as digital health professionals, we seek to leverage technology and data to improve the health, well-being, and experiences of other humans. Digital health is about people: the people we serve, the people we work with, and the people we are.
Our human capacity for connection, compassion, and curiosity isn’t replicable—and it’s essential to collaborative, innovative, person-centered health systems. No matter what challenges and opportunities await, humanity is central to our work.
Of course, predicting the future is an imprecise exercise. But while much of 2024 remains to be written, we can take an active role in holding the pen—what key words will shape your year?
Katie Bryski is a digital health professional who thrives on transforming data into stories, and networks into communities.