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Top healthcare trends to watch in 2021

Published on January 28, 2021 by Raghu Patale

Although 2020 saw many unprecedented and unfortunate events unfold, many are hopeful of a better 2021. The pandemic has set the pace for growth in many industries and sectors, with the healthcare industry being one of the biggest beneficiaries. Against the backdrop of significant advancement in artificial intelligence and machine learning in life science and healthcare, we believe other trends could disrupt the current paradigm.

1. Patient and physician experience remaining top priority

Virtual consultation saw significant growth in 2020. For instance, the number of users of the Department of Veterans Affairs Video Connect system rose to 120,000 per week in 2020 from 10,000 per week in 2019, resulting in the need to improve the user/patient experience. There is also a considerable focus on improving the patient and physician experience by onboarding a large number of physicians offering services across a range of therapeutics and keyword-rich service lines, making services affordable and encouraging patient and physician engagement. This platform, which has improved the user experience, will now likely attract more patients and physicians.

Stocks of healthcare companies that had such virtual consultation platforms have soared – Teladoc climbed 48%, Livongo more than doubled and One Medical jumped 52% from mid-February to end-May. Although this growth may not remain as significant as it was during pandemic, we believe the use of teleconsultations and virtual platforms will continue to grow.

2. Digital “health passports” becoming a necessity

With the pandemic likely to be here for the long haul, confirmation of vaccination would be critical for international travel. The race is on to build a technology that meets the needs of stakeholders such as physicians, patients, and visa and airport authorities.

Government authorities in countries such as Israel, Denmark, Estonia, European Union and Saudi Arabia are already pushing for the development of “health passports”. Large technology companies such as IBM collaborating with CommonPass, Apple and Google to get their product rolled out on a large scale is competing with smaller specialist technology firms such as the Verifly, V-Health passport, Ada Lovelace Institute and The Common Trust Network.

3. Gene-editing techniques and cell therapies increasing

After the failure in 1999, the safety of viral vectors has come under significant scrutiny. The approval of the first two gene therapies in the US and the outstanding results of the latest mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines – the BNT162b2 and the mRNA-1273 – have boosted confidence of the 1,900+ gene-based products in clinical trials. Gene therapies are likely to be on an upward trend and lead to a significant shift in the type of therapies used in the future.

W French Anderson, MD, called “the father of gene therapy”, predicted that “by 2053, there will be a gene-based treatment for essentially every disease. Cancer, heart disease, and other modern-day scourges will be vastly reduced.”

4. Virtual clinical trials gaining significant momentum

Clinical trials was a segment most affected by the pandemic, with patient recruitments coming to a complete halt at the peak of the pandemic, and still on the downside, mainly due to fear of infection when visiting a hospital and hospitals prioritising the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

On the positive side, however, the pandemic has boosted digital advancements in multiple segments of clinical trials. Using digital technologies to enrol, onboard, monitor, streamline and engage patients, many companies are attempting to build completely virtual trials. Although market leaders such as IQVIA Virtual Trials, PRA Health and Clinpal claim to have already built such completely virtual trials, we have yet to be apprised of the credibility of such claims.

5. Mental health gaining importance

The pandemic has put the spotlight on mental health, with an at least 2.5x increase in the number of those in the US with mental health conditions since the start of the pandemic.

However, it has also broken barriers and created more awareness of mental health issues, leading to a sense of urgency for research in this area.

6. Disinfection is likely here to stay

The importance of hygiene and constant disinfection has been highlighted amid this crisis. Such awareness and employers’ and government initiatives have led to a rapid surge in the disinfection market, and the fear of infection will likely mean this awareness will continue.

The importance of hygiene and constant disinfection has been highlighted amid this crisis. Such awareness and employers’ and government initiatives have led to a rapid surge in the disinfection market, and the fear of infection will likely mean this awareness will continue.

On a different note, the pandemic has also blurred the lines of personal and profession space. We expect more new health apps to be built to monitor activity and generate alerts when it is time to take a break or exercise.

About Acuity Knowledge Partners

Leveraging nearly two decades of experience and through analysing historical information and predicting trends, we help our clients build and strengthen strategies and businesses, including life sciences and healthcare firms.

We also provide services such as therapy area landscapes, opportunity prioritisation, lifecycle management, and go-to-market and market assessment.

For more information on our capabilities, please visit our Life sciences solutions page.


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About the Author

Raghu Patale serves as Delivery Manager leading the Life Sciences Corporate Strategy Research and Consulting vertical. His responsibilities include thought leadership, setting up new client engagements, client management, and generating business insights. He has over 10 years of experience in conducting life science research as a competitive intelligence and strategy consultant. He has supported a wide spectrum of client engagements focusing on competitive intelligence, therapy area research, market opportunity assessments, M&A support and report writing in oncology and other therapy areas for US, EU5, and Asian geographies.

Prior to this, Raghu was a Group Manager, leading the Pharma..Show More

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