Healthcare trends in 2021: 5 predictions
2020 was a whirlwind year for the healthcare industry, with unprecedented pressures leading to incredible change and progress. The pandemic meant scientific progress that usually takes decades was condensed into months. The advancement of smart-device technology saw wearables create promising outcomes for patient-led care, and the importance of collaboration became more evident than ever before. Industry experts predict that this momentum will continue, with healthcare trends in 2021 expected to build on the technological advances made in 2020 as we navigate through the pandemic and start to move forward in a post-Covid world.
5 key healthcare industry trends to look out for:
1. Healthcare will be considered a priority in every aspect of life
Just as 2020 saw most companies transform to become digital and remote, 2021 will see companies move to put healthcare front and centre. Ensuring a safe return to the office will rely on the further implementation of Covid-secure measures: on-premises screening technology and sanitisation stations will be critical. These measures will not only become more widespread, but they will become more advanced: health monitoring tools will be utilised to both detect Covid and benefit employees’ overall health and wellbeing.
For many organisations, it will be safer to continue working from home for the majority of 2021. This will bring its own health implications, including the need to support the mental health of employees as they continue to balance home and work responsibilities.
2. Digital technologies will need to support flexible and scalable healthcare systems as we enter the largest vaccination programme ever seen
The pandemic response demonstrated that healthcare systems can embrace digital solutions rapidly when it is an operational necessity to do so. This progress made in 2020 will need to accelerate further as we head into 2021, with the race to vaccinate entire populations while the virus still spreads rapidly presenting an even bigger challenge. Digital management systems must be scalable, flexible, and accessible to ensure effective collaboration across healthcare departments. This rapid acceleration of digital technology means organisations must also protect themselves against the increasingly prevalent cyber-attacks seen across the healthcare industry. They should establish a security culture by training staff, ensuring they comply with security and privacy regulations, and investing in the correct software systems to support their security needs.
3. Digital solutions will be used more widely as clinician burnout becomes a real concern
The pandemic has taken a huge toll on healthcare workers, and a real concern moving forward is clinician burnout and how digital technology can help reduce the cognitive burden on staff. Software usability plays a key role in this: poor usability has been a large contributor of burnout in 2020. Moving forward, systems must be easy-to-use for both clinicians and patients for their impact to be realised.
The digital hospital is also gradually becoming more of a reality: the capture, use and storage of patient data will support this movement whereby patients will eventually be able to self-serve from digitally available services, further removing some of the pressure on front line staff. For example, apps that measure blood sugar levels for individuals considered high-risk of diabetes can support them to make healthier lifestyle choices without relying on traditional medication.
4. The implementation of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) will require innovation and collaboration
The NHS has outlined its goal to focus on building strong and effective Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) across England in 2021/2022. ICSs mean collective responsibility will be taken for managing resources, delivering care, and improving the health of the population. The implementation of ICSs will require patient pathways to be redefined, some of which will become virtual. The process will require substantial amounts of innovation and collaboration; transparent management systems and open standards will be needed to allow the different teams to work together effectively. Technology that supports improved collaboration and transfer of data will be vital.
5. Remote consultations are here to stay, with telemedicine technology continuing to advance
In 2020, the rise of remote consultations stemmed from the necessity to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, however, the question remains: if it is possible to receive the same level of care at home as you would in a medical practice, then surely it is preferable to do so? A recent survey found that over half of GPs in the UK would like remote consultations to continue after the pandemic. Matt Hancock has repeatedly stressed his preference for remote consultations, arguing that these should be the default so long as the option for face-to-face always remains available as well. The benefits offered by remote consultations are compelling: more convenient, more control over prioritising, and access to patients who can otherwise be hard to reach such as patients with mobility problems. Providers will concentrate on bridging the gap where people may lack digital skills to ensure telemedicine becomes the default in 2021.
Investment in digital infrastructure will be needed to facilitate this movement, so consideration should be given to ensure the security of patient data, and the usability of the digital service (including enhancing digital skills where needed).
The future of healthcare looks hugely promising as we move into 2021: we can see our way out of the pandemic and can begin to look forward to making the most of the incredible technological progress seen in 2020.
Ideagen is here to help your organisation operationalise these healthcare trends in 2021. Learn more about our solutions.