5 highlights from the 2021 Healthcare Trends Report.

Today’s healthcare and pharmaceutical companies are in a position to reap significant gains from accelerated digital innovation. The 2021 Healthcare Trends Report shows the scale of change within a sector that has been pivotal to society throughout the pandemic.

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Dramatic investment will have a lasting impact.

Global health spending continues to increase dramatically, with the market projected to surpass $10trn by 2022. This response to the crisis has opened the doors to new ideas, accelerating innovation and creating a lasting shift in customer behaviour. In the 2021 Healthcare Trends Report, we explore themes such as the emergence of AI and predictive healthcare, along with the issues this is already causing around first-party data and consumer trust.

Healthcare innovation became a priority.

New advancements in healthcare are one of the few upsides of the pandemic. Recent insights estimate that $80.6bn was provided in equity and funding to healthcare players in 2020 across a total of 5,500 deals. The medical crisis and considerable investment that followed allowed many healthcare and pharmaceutical companies to innovate at previously unimaginable speeds. Across the industry, organisations successfully increased their efficiency and shifted away from physical interactions due to social distancing and lockdown restrictions. In the 2021 Healthcare Trends Report, 87% of organisations agreed that they need to react quicker to customer demands, and 89% said they had to accelerate their digital transformation plans. These leaps forward have benefitted the entire user journey from onboarding patients with automated forms to managing conditions such as diabetes and asthma via smart technology. Even though some of these developments were already in the pipeline, there’s no doubt that the events of 2020 made them a priority.

Our top recommendation for 2021:

Organisations should continue to invest in digital initiatives that deliver a personalised experience. When asked about their focus for investment, 33% of respondents said mobile check-ins, 30% said providing plans based on connected health data, and 31% said simplifying and automating online forms.

New opportunities for competitive advantage.

There’s a growing gap between healthcare providers that have embraced new opportunities and those that have struggled to adapt. Even as vaccines are being rolled out and the world is preparing for a cautious reopening, it’s hard to imagine businesses returning to pre-pandemic strategies. Many of the digital initiatives introduced since the start of the pandemic are more efficient and convenient for consumers. Successful providers will build on the digital momentum they have developed and embrace new opportunities as they arise. One talked-about area is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver proactive healthcare predictions through ‘wearables’ that monitor health statistics recorded by body sensors. We found that there’s strong demand from organisations to invest in this area. This year’s report shows that proactive prediction and prevention of medical issues is the leading priority for 2021.

Our top recommendation for 2021:

To continue on a path of digital transformation, healthcare organisations must let go of traditional hierarchies and outdated working practices. Business leaders need to focus on ensuring that people are empowered and incentivised to innovate and experiment.

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Behavioural shifts create new loyalties.

Needless to say, there has been a marked shift in customer behaviour since early 2020. Lockdowns and health concerns drove almost all demographics online in staggering numbers, causing a skyrocketing number of remote Telehealth visits between patients and clinicians. This has changed the process for everything from doctor’s appointments to hospital treatments. In the report, 67% of healthcare providers said their organisations have experienced unusual growth in the number of digital and mobile visitors. Interestingly, 43% reported unusual growth in new prospects and 40% reported customer churn, which could suggest that disrupted patterns have upset previous loyalties. This has created opportunities for newcomers and digital leaders to increase their market share by providing better digital experiences. Traditional healthcare providers are already vulnerable to more digitally advanced companies, with only 17% describing themselves as ‘very advanced’ in terms of their customer experience.

Our top recommendation for 2021:

A paradigm shift is taking place in the healthcare sector. Customer behaviour and expectations are evolving rapidly during the pandemic. Due to an increase in global funding, new players have entered the market without the barriers of outdated systems and processes. Investing in a personalised and real-time customer experience is key to driving brand loyalty.

How to overcome challenges around data.

Delivering a seamless healthcare experience often requires collaborations between different providers. To do this, healthcare organisations need access to actionable insights from customer data. Even though healthcare is a regulated industry with restrictions around how companies can handle data, customers are becoming increasingly wary of the methods used to target them. This came to light recently in the high-profile debate around UK government plans to share NHS patient data with Google. Encouragingly, about three-quarters of the healthcare and pharmaceutical companies that took part in the 2021 Healthcare Trends Report claimed to be ‘effective’ or ‘highly effective’ in their customer data practices. However, 29% admitted there was significant room for improvement in using this data to deliver strong experiences throughout the customer journey. Insights from the report suggest that healthcare organisations can do more to help customers manage their consent and permissions.

Our top recommendation for 2021:

Healthcare organisations need to find ways to reassure customers that their data is safe and secure, and that offering up information is justified by the quality and relevance of their services. Only the companies that are adept at gathering first-party data will be able to develop genuinely personalised services.

Top-performers embrace digital excellence.

Key themes emerged as we explored the differences between organisations that outperformed their sector last year and their mainstream competitors. Leaders were ahead of the game when it comes to giving staff a sense of direction and mission, underpinned by a stronger sense of purpose around organisational goals. For instance, top-performers are 19% more likely to describe their organisation as having a strong business mindset, and 23% are more likely to have a defined brand purpose. In addition, the majority of top-performing companies were more likely to give employees the freedom to experiment with new ideas. Empowering executives with the autonomy to innovate can be a great way to outmanoeuvre less flexible organisations. Aside from external signs of success, employees at leading companies are also more likely to be excited about their jobs. Optimism in the workplace is more important than ever when people are experiencing personal pressures caused by the pandemic.

Our top recommendation for 2021:

The right organisational and cultural backing can have a major impact on staff performance. It’s essential that teams are given the freedom to innovate and are encouraged to maintain high levels of communication – especially if they are working remotely.

Three key insights from the report.

of healthcare companies said they had to accelerate digital transformation plans, and 82% report that digital is ‘quickly accelerating as a sales channel’.

of executives said their top priority for 2021 was to develop ‘new service offerings to proactively help customers’.

of organisations rate their digital journey as ‘advanced’, leaving them vulnerable to competition from newcomers to the healthcare sector.

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