When it comes to healthcare trends, 2021 is continuing to offer opportunities for growth and change in a variety of ways. Here are ten healthcare industry trends we’re keeping an eye on this year.
1. Expanded telehealth services
A major trend out of necessity in 2020 is going to keep trending in 2021 by choice: telehealth. Telehealth expanded to fill the gaps in previously underserved populations. People flocked online to fill prescriptions and receive routine health checks. This has not slowed as we moved into 2021.
As a stopgap measure for safety and a long-term care strategy, the continued expansion of telehealth is telling. It indicates a hybrid model of in-person and virtual care that’s likely here to stay.
2. Lower overhead for medical practices?
This one remains a question as we move into the early part of 2021. Sure, with the first waves of vaccine just rolling out and new variants of COVID-19 rolling in there is still a call for telehealth.
As the pandemic recedes, the use of telehealth might dip. But many consumers are realizing the benefit of receiving services at home. For some medical care facilities, this might mean a drop in overhead as staffing and hours of operation are adjusted.
On the other hand, there might be a jump in in-person visits when it becomes safer to have them. Many people still prefer IRL contact over screen time with a digital assistant. This is one of those healthcare industry trends that might go either way, so watch this space (as we all are).
3. New contactless health technologies, including virtual drug trials
The many vaccines coming to market in 2020 and 2021 featured a new characteristic—many of them were conducted online.
Moving vaccine trials online maintained better COVID-19 protocols by limiting in-person participation. This reduced the burden on participants, too, and (in theory) made the participant pool more diverse. Online vaccine trials may rise by as much as 38% by 2025.
A rise in the Internet of Things (IoT) that are health-based is part of this larger 2021 healthcare trend. From wireless inventory trackers to biometric security scanners that don’t require contact, the use of this technology will continue to expand in 2021.
4. AI-driven developments
With the AI healthcare market set to exceed $34 billion by 2025, we will continue to see new developments and advances here. AI’s first success in 2020 was in predictive models. These tracked the current (and future) spread of COVID-19 in an effort to slow the pandemic.
Other AI-driven 2021 healthcare trends to watch for include:
- Autonomous robots that sanitize with ultraviolet lights
- Symptom-tracking chatbots
- Virtual assistants with medication reminders
- AI-assisted therapies for chronic patients, like those suffering from stroke
Augmented reality is the new reality for 2021, too. Some states implemented fast-tracked nursing school graduate policies. Many of these new nurses completed at least a portion of their training using augmented reality.
5. A reassessment of cybersecurity practices
Nothing like a pandemic to bring out the worst in cybercriminals. 2020 saw a 25% increase in ransomware attacks on organizations and internet scams on individuals.
As so much of our lives (and work) move online, healthcare tech trends include beefing up cybersecurity and making sure remote workers have the tools they need to keep sensitive data secure.
6. Proactive vs. reactive thinking
Hospitals, clinics, and community organizations may be ready to respond to a one-off emergency (e.g., earthquakes and fires), but 2020 flipped that reactive script and put us in planning mode. It’s not enough to simply stockpile supplies and hope for the best.
Your healthcare or community organization needs to consider how you will deal with massive disruption to “business as usual.” This includes planning for everything from employee childcare issues to pivoting to a more flexible supply chain.
7. New federal healthcare policies
With an increased focus on the importance of public health, new federal healthcare policies are looking to minimize the impact of the pandemic (and prevent further fallout).
The Biden administration is focusing on the following changes:
- Re-opening emergency enrollment in the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
- Reviewing and reversing previous barriers to access for ACA and Medicaid benefits
- Re-entering the World Health Organization (WHO)
- Participating in worldwide vaccine agreements
These policies allow more of the uninsured to access health benefits. This could result in more patients in medical practices of all sizes.
8. “Smart” hospitals and clinics
We all sing “Happy birthday” while washing our hands and know when it’s time to swap masks. Our personal sanitation has gotten smarter, and so has your hospital or clinic’s.
“Smart” cleaning technologies that use ultraviolet light are becoming standard practice, as are check-in procedures that minimize face-to-face contact.
9. Advanced discussion of health inequalities and barriers to care
2020 revealed not only deep divisions in our politics but also in our healthcare. With communities of color contracting COVID-19 by at least two times the rate of white communities, the time for change is now.
Some of this data reflects community transmission factors, but the rest falls squarely on access to healthcare. A PwC Health Research Institute survey of consumers in September 2020 even found inequality in telehealth challenges for consumers of different races. 66% of Black consumers and 65% of Latinx consumers had issues accessing telehealth care, compared to 49% of white consumers.
And when it comes to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, many communities of color are scarred by past medical injustice and what can only be called experimentation. In 2021, we may finally have long overdue discussions surrounding racial health inequality and barriers to care.
10. Increased importance of digital marketing and online presence
One of the first things new patients want to know is what online services your practice or organization offers. And the only way to spread the word these days is through coordinated digital marketing on a variety of channels that creates a vibrant, engaging online presence.
With so many medical practices and organization conducting their business online, having a strong online presence is more important than ever.
If 2020 was a year of on-the-fly adjustments, 2021 healthcare trends look to balance that with a focus on security, strength, and service to patients. If you need help with adjusting your online marketing to meet these trends head-on, Boost Medical can help.
Get in touch today to learn more about our services for your healthcare or community organization.