The healthcare industry responded with astonishing speed to the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we start to move from crisis response to recovery and reform, we all owe a debt of gratitude to our healthcare and aged-care workers and leaders for their commitment and sacrifice, says PwC.
Practically overnight, clinicians, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies and payers shifted much of their work onto virtual platforms and other digital technologies. As consumers grappled with a deadly new virus, providers embraced virtual technology in unprecedented numbers so they could continue to serve patients despite restrictions on in-person interactions. In doing so, they packed a decade’s worth of reforms into a few short months. Players across the industry boosted data analytics capabilities to respond to ongoing shifts in healthcare needs, consumer behaviour and the economy. The deployment of digital tools in clinical trials helped companies quickly test whether existing medicines worked against the new virus and enabled the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines. And work began to shore up the weaknesses evident in the healthcare supply chain.
All this took place amid the broader backdrop of changes coursing through the industry and a set of long-standing common issues affecting the health ecosystem. In the years before the pandemic, and in the months since COVID-19 altered the course of history, a series of transformations has been altering traditional paradigms. And they will continue to do so in coming years. These include a heightened focus on well-being and prevention, the push to develop cures in addition to treatments, paying based on outcomes rather than fee-for-service, new developments in gene therapy and precision medicine, cross-industry convergence, and an end-to-end focus on patient and clinician experience. These themes intersect and interact with significant issues, including excessive cost; health inequities; inadequate transparency, interoperability and collaboration; and a general lack of trust.
Though there are opportunities for improvement in every component of operations in the vast US$8.3tn global healthcare system, our Global Top Health Industry Issues report focuses on four major themes that were given a shot of momentum by the response to the pandemic, and that will continue to grow in strength. These themes are the opportunity presented by the increase in virtual clinical care, the power of data analytics to deliver better health and economic outcomes, the influential technologyfuelled innovation in clinical trials, and the efforts to build supply chain resilience. The continuing digital transformation plays a key role in each of these issues as players across the healthcare spectrum embrace new tools and capabilities to improve clinical and business operations.
Our analysis is buttressed by a PwC survey of 10,000 consumers in ten territories, conducted in January 2021 to obtain insights into people’s healthcare experience during the pandemic and their readiness to adapt to change. The upshot: a year after the onset of the pandemic, many consumers are open to interacting with the healthcare system on digital platforms even after COVID-19 risks have subsided.
Some health systems may address these top issues in the next 12 to 24 months, while others may find these changes being manifested over a longer timeline. But one thing is clear. Rather than revert to normal, the industry has the potential to reimagine healthcare as it progresses to a new normal. We can apply the lessons and innovations learned during the crisis to build a healthcare system that is more resilient and dynamic, more open to new possibilities, and more effective from clinical and business perspectives, as well as one that provides better experiences and outcomes to patients.
Download the full report here.