2020 was a challenging year for the healthcare industry. The impacts were far and wide, but some areas were impacted the most, such as – the way people received medical care, how the healthcare supply chain functioned, etc. Fast forward to 2021, with the deployment of multiple covid-19 vaccines, things have started to look better, and the healthcare sector is seeing the light at the end of this never-ending tunnel. That being said, the healthcare industry we once knew will never look the same, and with so many innovations and advancements spurred by the pandemic, we can expect several more trends in 2021 and beyond.
Technology helped the healthcare sector steer through the murky waters of the pandemic.
The healthcare systems, overwhelmed by the huge influx of COVID-19 patients, relied on technology to ensure continuity of services and become more efficient. Some of the technologies used were big data analytics, remote technologies, and technologies to fix cybersecurity issues. Today, IT teams have become indispensable for healthcare organizations, and AI and ML are being deployed at an unprecedented scale. This is reflected by healthcare market trends, which indicate that the funding for digital health companies touched $26.5 billion in 2020. The most funded “value proposition” was on-demand healthcare.
Prime focus areas in 2021
On-demand healthcare will continue to grow
Developments in personal devices and connectivity drive the on-demand business model. This business model led to two changes in the job sector also.
- It led to the creation of an independent workforce that met the lack of talent in many on-demand services.
- Staffing itself became an on-demand service.
The on-demand economy touched the healthcare sector as well. The simplest form of on-demand service is telemedicine. From finding new ways to engage with patients and healthcare payers to tackling the shortage of talent, digital on-demand services played a crucial role, and they will continue to do so in 2021 as well. A good example is Wendy’s, which connects caregivers to seniors at the click of a button. Real-time connected healthcare will become commonplace soon because of these on-demand services.
Staffing Software will become crucial to fill staffing gaps
Covid-19 highlighted major staffing issues in healthcare organizations worldwide. This problem is expected to continue at least till 2030. WHO estimates that there would be a shortage of 9.9 million healthcare workers globally in the next decade. With the shortage of medical staff, the concept of “travel nursing” is expected to gain prominence.
Technology can help the industry alleviate its staffing problems too. Some good staffing software offering a range of functionalities, including recruitment, data management, and staff scheduling, are – Rx Medical Staffing, GapNurse, QGenda, etc.
Regulations for the on-demand economy will be high on the priority
The on-demand economy is quite complex. Let us understand this statement by looking at this general example. The UK’s Supreme Court ruled that Uber, an on-demand taxi service, its drivers are not “self-employed” – they are Uber’s employees. This means they are entitled to all the rights and benefits that Uber’s regular employees have.
Because of this dilemma, governments are struggling to draft clear regulations to oversee the on-demand economy. As of now, the on-demand platforms are in a state of uncertainty while regulations are worked through. This also means drafting clear regulations and finding ways of removing risks will be top on the priority list. Well-planned and executed regulations for this model will turn it into a profitable business model.
Top technology trends that will rule the healthcare space
In recent years, there has been a significant rise in the digitalization of the healthcare industry. COVID-19 pandemic gave it a new impetus. While the technology has resulted in so many benefits for the healthcare sector, it has also given rise to cyber crimes and cyber threats. Besides targeting sensitive patient information and hospital systems, the new target of cybercriminals is the COVID-19 vaccines, which hackers have repeatedly targeted. Companies like the European Medicines Agency and Pfizer reported attacks targeted at vaccine data. All these malicious attacks have forced the healthcare industry to take the matter of cybersecurity very seriously. A report found that there were 239.4 million attempted cyberattacks on healthcare organizations and their customers. It’s clear why cybersecurity and data protection are two of the most important tech trends for 2021.
Internet of Medical things (IoMT)
IoMT constitutes the medical devices and applications connected to healthcare IT systems with the help of computer networks. They can bring healthcare to remote areas where it’s difficult to have full-time hospitals. Fitbit, for instance, is a type of IoMT that not just monitors physical activities but also can be used in remote monitoring programs so that clinical intervention can be provided whenever required.
With the help of data provided by various IoMTs, patient care can be improved, and clinical workflow management can be streamlined. The global IoMT market has been predicted to reach $254.2 billion by 2026.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
These two technologies are not just assisting with medical training, surgeries, and accurate diagnosis but also helping companies like Pfizer in research. Pfizer is using IBM’s Watson to see how the body’s immune system can fight cancer.
Big Data and Analytics
Considering the healthcare crisis on such a massive scale, it is probably the most important trend of 2021. The pandemic showed just how important big data could be in healthcare. With the help of data analytics, spikes in cases and the new waves of covid infection have been successfully predicted. Besides that, it is being used to make foolproof vaccine strategies, identify high-risk groups, and drug efficacy against the virus.
Healthcare Data Interoperability
With the investments in healthcare digitization, interoperability is expected to become a major trend now. Interoperability allows patients to access and share their electronic health information more easily. Tech giants like Google are also getting involved. It recently launched its Cloud Healthcare Interoperability Readiness Program to help healthcare providers with interoperability regulations.
Looking at the trends, we can say that 2021 will be about embracing digital transformation and preparing for transformative products and services. Besides the above trends, there are many other trends, like predictive analytics, AR, VR, mHealth, 3D printing, blockchain, etc., shaping healthcare and adding value to both organizations and patients.