Struggles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic plagued 2020, and it quickly changed the world of healthcare in various ways. From developments in telehealth and PPE standards to medical professionals’ scope of work, several new factors were introduced to the industry. As we continue the work to diminish the coronavirus’ harmful effects, those in the medical and healthcare fields are exploring what’s next—including life after COVID-19 and its lasting effects. Below, we’ll go over the top five predictions of what the new year holds for the healthcare industry.
1. The COVID-19 vaccine and the decline of hesitancy
Physicians anticipate vaccines will become readily available to the public in late 2021. However, some suggest this may come to fruition even sooner due to the industry’s urgency. Dr. Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General nominee, told CNN, “I think it’s more realistic to assume that it may be closer to mid-summer, early fall when this vaccine makes its way to the general population.”
The next hurdle is the hesitancy many Americans have in regards to getting the vaccine. Approximately 21% of the adult U.S. population say they would not get the vaccine. Only 58% would get the vaccine today if given the option, which doesn’t meet the minimum requirement (70%) for herd immunity. While these numbers don’t seem promising, many healthcare officials predict those who have negative feelings toward the vaccine will slowly change their perspective as more people receive the vaccine.
2. Tailored experiences, technological developments, and smart hospitals
Throughout 2020, patients and physicians experienced telehealth services on a broader scale. As technological and consumer expectations accelerate into 2021, we can expect to see an increase in personalized patient experience at an affordable cost. According to Susan Collins, Twilio’s global head of healthcare, these tailored interactions will be handled through “smart devices, machine learning, and omnichannel communication tools.”
Researchers, drug companies, and biotechs knew a vaccine needed to be found during the pandemic—and fast. While the process of developing a successful vaccine typically takes ten years or more, scientists accelerated things by developing AI-powered labs, GPU-accelerated instruments, and AI models. These machines and technological breakthroughs will handle microscopic viewing, the sorting of chemical structures, genomic analysis, in-silico screening methods, protein-ligand interactions, and data assimilation from multiple sources.
Finally, smart hospitals are at the tip of many healthcare experts’ tongues. These establishments will mimic patients’ and physicians’ experiences using smart speakers and cameras. In 2021, the technology will help limit the need for medical personnel on the front lines, increase efficiency, and prevent adverse patient events through virtual monitoring.
3. Mental health will become a priority
Mental health took a severe decline throughout 2020. During late June, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health issues. In 2021, experts and stakeholders anticipate implementing more readily available resources, such as telehealth counseling, better benefits, and medication. Also, as more and more vaccines are administered and the number of COVID-19 cases declines, people will be able to trickle back into society and hopefully avoid feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
4. Policy changes
In 2021, pharma groups plan to collaborate and make positive changes in prescription drug pricing and offer better coverage for the 135 million Americans with preexisting conditions. The Biden administration supports this step forward by making it clear those covered under the Affordable Care Act will retain their coverage. However, people who benefit from this plan should keep an eye out for expansions and revisions to the current ACA.
5. New PPE standards
Lastly, healthcare facilities will see an upgrade in personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and standards. New standards include hands-free communication through smart devices, fresh PPE after or in between each visit with an exposed/contaminated/isolated patient or area, and the use of voice-controlled devices that will be worn under PPE. These devices will allow the physician to connect with the correct process, person, or location without disrupting a patient’s care.
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