The year 2020 showed us how a health crisis shut down the entire global economy, demonstrating how inseparable healthcare and the economy have become. Reenita Das, Transformational Healthcare Senior Vice President and Partner at Frost & Sullivan, stresses that today, we are not in a new normal but the next normal. “We just have to get used to this because this is the way the healthcare industry is going to work. Companies need to start thinking ahead and building tools and look at virtualisation and digitisation. They also need to put the consumer at the centre of the ecosystem and COVID-19 has shown us how important that is. Therefore, we need to start building the tools, software, hardware and platforms and use the technology in the right way to benefit the customer and create a better customer experience than what we have done in the past.”
In an interview with Omnia Health Insights, she sheds light on what’s in store for the healthcare industry in 2021. Excerpts:
What are the top healthcare industry trends for 2021?
The biggest trend that I see that we're going to look at in 2021 is that the patient has become the consumer. I believe there's a tremendous growth opportunity in the healthcare system, as we extend from pre-diagnosis to post-treatment. What we will see happen is that while the healthcare system was very much based on a venue-based system, from 2021 onwards, the venue is not going to become important anymore. We're going to move from a brick-and-mortar venue to a virtual venue. What will become important is patient engagement and patient experience. So, in our view, we are looking at almost 45 per cent of all interactions that consumers will make across the world to be digital. Therefore, companies, organisations and healthcare systems need to start setting up the digital front door, which is going to create a lot of opportunities in the ecosystem, both by way of consolidation, as well as by way of increasing revenues for companies that have not seen that.
The next big trend that I see happening taking place in this economy is the whole aspect of platforms. This is going to become the next normal and we will have to start building a lot of tools, software, hardware, apps, that will help to build the platform. One of the things that medical device companies need to be thinking about is how to widen the solution plus a strategy to better support healthcare providers. Therefore, they will have to start thinking about adding value to their offerings, whether they acquire those offerings or whether they make it themselves.
Some other big trends that we see happening in healthcare today is the whole trend of home hospitalisation, which is starting in the U.S., but we are seeing its adoption rising in other parts of the world. Instead of getting patients admitted to the hospital, they will be hospitalised at home by using 24/7 telehealth remote monitoring tools. Using these can save costs of around 30 per cent.
What would you say has been the economic impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare industry?
I think the whole COVID-19 impact has been huge. For example, we found that hospital elective procedures were completely put on hold for six months. As a result of that, what has happened is that hospitals have lost almost US$600 billion globally. So, how will these hospitals really go back to business is the big question that is in the minds of many hospitals today. And that is why I believe more and more hospitals are investing in virtual care solutions. They're looking at other ways to generate money. Because right now, even though elective procedures have started, I think it's going to take a lot of time to recover.
I think the other big impact of COVID-19 has been on the medical device industry. From an imaging perspective, people were not doing CTS and MRIs. And as a result, there was a decline of almost negative 4 per cent that happened.
While the markets that have flourished tremendously has been medical diagnostics and digital health. These are the two markets which are showing the highest growth rates of around 8 per cent for the diagnostic industry and digital health around 5 per cent globally for 2021.
How much of an impact is digital health having on improving patient outcomes today?
Previously, digital health was a service available to give patients access to healthcare in remote areas, when patients were not able to see doctors. However, COVID-19 is enough testimonial for us to actually see that it worked and gave us access to the healthcare system. The first most important thing is that digital health gives us access. We are looking at a high cell phone penetration that's happening in the world today, which will accelerate digital health. The second big thing that I think digital health has done is that it's helped to create more accuracy and more prediction for the healthcare system. If you look at artificial intelligence, the success of that has been huge in terms of being able to read laboratory tests, being able to read X-rays and CT scans and reduce the workload and the burnout of the physician, which has happened tremendously as a result of COVID-19. I think there's a lot of ways that we have to move forward with data and creating a platform strategy, mentioned earlier, is one of the ways that we could see that transition take place.
What are the healthcare market segments that are likely to expand in the coming year?
Today, everyone is focused on vaccines and that's a huge opportunity. We're also building a therapeutic strategy that companies are testing on, and they will see a huge number of products come out as part of that therapeutic strategy.
I think diagnostics has taken a huge leap as a result of COVID-19. We've seen tests happen in retail centres, and airports, in shopping malls as never before. That has escalated the whole invent of what we call retail diagnostics. Eventually, we're going to see a lot of new businesses and growth opportunities come to the fore, which will be more focused on reducing costs, whether it's administrative waste in hospitals or trying to identify the right doctor and match you with the right healthcare system or provider. All of these things are going to be digitised in the future, which will reduce cost dramatically. So, we're going to get into a world which is very much going to be based on prediction, prevention and personalisation.
Hear more from Reenita Das and other leading healthcare voices - join the upcoming webinar!
'Top Predictions for GCC Healthcare in 2021', 2nd March 2021, 4PM GST: Register now
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Learn about the growth opportunities arising from new business models for medical technologies, diagnostics, medical imaging and healthcare IT sectors, as well as best practices playing a key role in the paradigm shift in healthcare and life sciences.