4 healthcare industry trends to watch in the second half of 2021

August 6, 2021

Healthcare looks quite different than it did just a few short years ago. The COVID-19 crisis has created a distinct “before” and “after” for the world, and especially for healthcare. The pandemic forced the entire industry to quickly adopt and advance their health IT, creating new urgency and interest in telemedicine, data security and more. We are seeing more innovation than ever before, which is spurring investment in new technological developments.

Given how much change has happened in the past 12-18 months, we set out to understand what’s top of mind for healthcare industry leaders now and what they’re keeping tabs on throughout the rest of the year. Here are the four key trends that emerged, and that you can expect to hear about throughout the remainder of 2021:

1. Emergence of healthcare ecosystems and platforms

We know that to truly transform healthcare and create equal access to the most innovative and cutting-edge technologies, healthcare needs a ubiquitous platform that is open to all developers and all organizations. We’re working on this vision now. Our software is ready, and now we’re sharing the technology and the dream with the entire industry.

Eric Thrailkill, Founder of Allee Advisory Services LLC, noted that ecosystems, platforms, marketplaces and partnerships are critical to driving true change in the industry as we move forward. He said he’s “…optimistic we’ll take pandemic learning and create next generation, patient-centered solutions, to a new level. The industry demonstrated near-impossible achievement, yet laid bare existing issues of cost, access, quality and equity. An ‘ecosystem mindset’ is essential to truly accelerate the journey to value.”

2. A shift in risk tolerance among health systems

Historically, the perception of health systems has been that they are risk-averse, a slow-moving industry filled with late adopters and lagging health IT innovation. In reality, the issue has been that healthcare technology companies have built some pretty mediocre products. COVID-19 offered proof that healthcare could be nimble and adapt. The vaccine was researched, produced and distributed in record time. Hospitals set up complex testing sites seemingly overnight. Telemedicine was rapidly adopted. Silos were broken, and collaboration happened at a previously unseen pace. The need for change was significant, and progress happened rapidly.

Taylor McPartland, CEO, ScaleHealth, hopes that this shift is permanent. He said he’s got is eyes focused on, “…the potential of a long-term and sustainable shift in risk tolerance of health systems and corporations, because, while we have seen great strides towards simplifying the process for implementing innovative solutions, the work is far from over and we can’t complacently slide back to the old status quo.”

3. The impact of digital tools on behavioral health

One of the consequences of the pandemic is a surge in mental health issues and increased awareness of the lack of resources dedicated to this important topic. Healthcare needs to prepare for a long-term impact on mental health among all age groups. Depression, anxiety and substance abuse are already on the rise. The industry needs a new way of monitoring and treating these problems using advanced technology in order to reach the most people.

Dr. Michael Petersen, Transformative Physician Executive and Chief Clinical Innovation Officer, NTT DATA Services, is focused on “…the use of digital tools in behavioral health because of the rush on investments around building out digital solutions to address this growing health challenge that is often forgotten in the continuum of care, especially post pandemic where loneliness, anxiety and stress impacted a wider population.”

4. Growth of digital transformation

‘Digital transformation’ has emerged as a buzzword to describe how the industry is rethinking its approach for everything from back office administration to patient care, putting technology front and center. It’s a way of looking at your organization and thinking through all the ways that technology can help advance your mission and your business. The need for a complete digital transformation across the entire industry and entire continuum of care is so important that three separate leaders cited this as the key trend to watch in the coming months.

Dr. Geeta Nayyar, General Manager of Healthcare and Life Sciences and Executive Medical Director at Salesforce, explained that digital transformation “…continues to accelerate and lay the foundation for the future of the healthcare industry.”

Dana Alexander, Principal and Founder at Forerunner Health, echoed those sentiments, saying, “I believe digital health and innovations are critical to advancing and achieving value-based care. In order to deliver high quality, cost-effective and accessible care to all, digital solutions are a key factor to support future transformation.”

She went on to note that “COVID-19 ultimately has provided a springboard in many ways to advance strategies of remote monitoring, computer visualization and other digital innovations to serve patients and providers from clinical access and financial perspectives … Emerging digital innovations are breaking new frontiers.”

Danielle Siarri, Lead Publisher at InnoNurse, is specifically focused on digital transformation related to AI, nursing and wearables. We already know interest in AI has seen massive growth this past year, but COVID-19 also highlighted nursing challenges and the potential and demand for consumer wearables to monitor health. Understanding nursing and consumer needs will help drive successful digital transformation. “It is important to understand where everyone is coming from and future of innovation needs,” Siarri said.

What trends are you watching?

There are a number of exciting developments on the horizon and the momentum within the industry to truly transform healthcare is real. As Alexander put it, “While there are challenges ahead, digital innovations are refreshing the healthcare industry with no end in sight … it is EXCITING!”