The pandemic may have negatively impacted many things, but the health industry may emerge stronger in 2021 because of Covid-19 impacts. Virtual care, clinical trials, and digital relationships between patients and physicians are a few of many areas that executives should focus on. Continue reading below to learn more about how healthcare might change or continue to improve in 2021.
What will the healthcare landscape look like in 2021?
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Health Research Institute (HRI) released its annual health industry forecast Wednesday morning detailing how the healthcare system of 2021 can be reimagined and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic in a stronger position. While the 2020 forecast focused on returns from digital investment, M&A activity, and DEI, the top health industry issues of 2021 are likely to center around how the healthcare system will built itself back up after the struggles created by the coronavirus outbreak. Healthcare organizations saw struggles with finances, the national supply chain, staffing shortages, and staying afloat during the pandemic. According to PwC, there are opportunities for the health industry to rebound in a stronger and smarter way in 2021. “As this pandemic makes painfully visible, medicine alone—ventilators, drugs, ICUs—will not save us. Medical care contributes only 10% to 20% of positive health outcomes. Rather than facing these realities, we too often continue to reactively Band-Aid,” Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha said during PwC’s 180 Health Forum in October. “We can’t afford to do that anymore. … Addressing the upstream root causes is the only answer … with crisis comes opportunity.”
Below are some key areas of the report that healthcare executives should focus on:
PwC found that over 90% of surveyed healthcare organizations are using telehealth for primary care services. Nearly 70% of those leaders said that “telehealth has been most useful for follow-up appointments. According to PwC, health leaders should “pay equal attention to revenue and customer experience” when it comes to the success of telehealth in their organizations.
Due to the pandemic, pharmaceutical and life sciences, companies recognized that clinical trials can be conducted remotely. These companies are hoping to continue this trend by conducting trials with “few in-person interactions.” The FDA created special guidance for trial sponsors during the pandemic, and PwC stated that these changes could be here to stay. Pharmaceutical and life science executives were nearly unanimous in saying that they expect digital investments in clinical trials to increase in 2021.
DIGITAL RELATIONSHIPS FOR PHYSICIANS
More than 90% of executives from the provider, life sciences, and health plan sectors answered that “improving the clinician experience is a priority for their organizations as they enter 2021.” According to PwC, digital technology can help improve the physician experience. Due to the pandemic, “administrative burdens” for physicians were reduced due to relaxed rules from CMS. Some private insurers also made claims a faster and easier process, and PwC believes there will be an increase of payers’ investments in automation by 2021. Health plan executives also said that a big focus for 2021 will be on “the physician-patient relationship verses members directly.”
Almost three-quarters of healthcare executives said that their organizations will be investing more in predictive modeling in 2021. According to PwC, “this capability to forecast the future could be as important to healthcare survival in 2021 as a mask may be for slowing the spread.” Moving forward, healthcare executives should focus on regional forecasting and collaborating with others in their area. More than 70% of healthcare executives said they were either starting to collaborate with other healthcare organizations or had plans to, due to the pandemic. Nearly two-thirds of leaders said they were either starting to collaborate or were planning to collaborate with public health agencies.
In 2021, PwC expects healthcare organizations to increase their investments in the “gaps exposed by the pandemic.” Hospitals and health systems who had invested in telehealth, home care, and digital capabilities that laid the groundwork for the rapid expansion of telemedicine due to the pandemic, have also “mostly recovered” from the initial hit of the pandemic. Meanwhile, organizations who are struggling financially may look into options such as M&A.
Forward-looking, PwC expects there will be a transformation of the national supply chain after the pandemic revealed flaws in the current system. “In 2021, HRI expects distributors and health systems to consider establishing contracts with secondary suppliers, joining new group purchasing organizations, relocating facilities and approaching storage and distribution on a more regional scale,” the report stated. Ninety-four percent of life sciences executives and 86% of provider executives see “improving supply chain transparency” as their top priority for 2021.
Almost a quarter of providers and health plan executives said that their organizations view the new federal rules on interoperability as a “strategic opportunity.” PwC suggests that healthcare organizations should have a “compliance-focused approach” and develop strategies for interoperability if they don’t want to be left behind. More than two-fifths of executives said that they have identified a leader to guide interoperability efforts for their organizations going into 2021. PwC also stated that consumer education should be a priority in 2021 so there is trust built between healthcare organizations. According to the report, “A comprehensive strategy that considers how the rules can lead to a more effective healthcare system that puts the consumer in the center would put the organization on offense in this new data-sharing environment.”