For many people, 2020 will certainly be a year to remember – and forget –, especially those in the health care industry. Frontline physicians, nurses and other health care professionals have shown incredible skill, passion and perseverance in treating COVID-19 patients, and some have done it with limited resources amid an unprecedented public health crisis. Adding to those challenges, some reports indicate that more than 1,000 hospitals across the United States are "critically" short on nurses, doctors and other staff.
The coronavirus pandemic has also had a significant financial impact on the health care industry, as evidenced by data from the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker:
- Combined spending on health services and prescription drugs was down by 0.5% as of October 2020.
- Health services revenue fell 2.4% compared to 2019.
- The largest declines in health services spending have been in ambulatory care settings.
- With uncertain short- and long-term effects of COVID-19, many insurers held 2021 premiums flat.
In with the old?
Looking to rebound in 2021, the health care industry will most likely be doing so with the help of some not-so-new trends and technologies. For example, digital health isn’t a new concept, but its use has accelerated quickly during the pandemic. Look next year for many manufacturers of digital health products to offer more comprehensive solutions instead of ones that only focus on a single problem.
As the World Health Organization notes, “the vision of the global strategy is to improve health for everyone, everywhere by accelerating the development and adoption of appropriate, affordable, scalable, and sustainable digital health solutions.” This includes advanced computing, artificial intelligence (AI), smart and connected devices, robotics and big data analytics.
Another technology that appears likely to continue its expansion in 2021 is virtual care, as reimbursement for it will probably be expanded through next year. Experts estimate that one-third of these telehealth appointments, totaling 138 million visits by some estimates, will be related to mental health issues. More than 30% of employers report that expanding virtual health services for 2021 is a top priority.
Similarly, AI is predicted once again to play a major role in health care. Some new technology funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has the capability to detect and fix numerous medication administration problems while helping hospitals overcome financial challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. AI can also be utilized in hospitals to scale the work of nurses on the front lines, increase operational efficiency and provide virtual patient monitoring to predict and prevent adverse patient events.
One of the surprising new technologies predicted to grow is wearable technology, which consists of products such as fitness trackers, smart watches and safety wearables. Consumer spending on wearable technology is expected to double in 2021.
Looking outside health care
New trends and technologies are shaping other industries, too. We’ve compiled a list of a few of the ones predicted by top industry analysts to play a part in shaping 2021.
Gartner: Internet of Behaviors
According to this leading research and advisory company, the Internet of Behaviors (IoB) is a term that describes using information to change behaviors by gathering, combining and processing data from multiple sources. These sources include commercial customer data, citizen data processed by public-sector and government agencies, social media, public domain deployments of facial recognition, and location tracking technologies for health care-related applications.
Also referred to as ML CI/CD, ModelOps, and ML DevOps, MLOps refers to “the application of DevOps tools and approaches to model development and delivery. Additionally, such tools can also be leveraged to industrialize and scale machine learning, from development and deployment, to ongoing model maintenance and management.”
McKinsey & Company: increased cybersecurity
Health care was the second-most cyber-attacked industry in 2020, but there has been an increase in pandemic-related social-engineering cybercrime. As McKinsey noted in its recent report that focused on the vital role digital plays in today’s businesses, “much of the rapid IT work carried out during the COVID-19 crisis might have created new cyber risk exposures.” Therefore, an increase in cybersecurity threats and preventing and protecting against them will be a top technology concern for many businesses, including those in health care.
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