What is going to happen in healthcare in 2021?
The healthcare industry has experienced seismic changes as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The NHS was forced to adapt processes at a rate never seen more; some experts suggest the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital health and virtual care by at least three years.
It was essential for healthcare providers to find ways to treat patients remotely in order to address the growing backlog for non-urgent cases. Statistics suggest the number of patients on waiting lists for more than a year is 123 times larger than 2019.
The only way to achieve large scale virtual treatment was through technology with the video consultations, telehealth solutions and self-service become mainstay solutions across the NHS. But will we see the return of old habits in 2021, or will technology remain at the heart of healthcare provision into the future? This is what we predict for healthcare technology in the next twelve months.
Remote care will become the norm
Last year technology proved to be an effective way of managing healthcare crises on a large scale and in 2021, we are set to see digital health applied in a more conventional sense.
Virtual consultations had become more popular before the pandemic, but last year we saw a meteoric leap in the adoption of remote care. With social distancing likely to be mandatory for the foreseeable future, we expect remote care will become the norm in both primary and secondary care settings.
Focus on hygienic hardware
Sterile environments have always been a priority in healthcare to stop the spread of infection, but the pandemic has thrown renewed focus on keeping hospitals and clinical settings clean.
We expect organisations will invest heavily in hygienic hardware such as infection control keyboards, medical grade PCs and monitors, and other smart technologies to help decontaminate treatment rooms or thermal thermometers to track common symptoms of COVID-19.
AI to shine in 2021
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been visible in healthcare for many years but has remained a mystery to many in terms of its applications in the real world. However, in 2020 we saw a greater uptake of AI as a means of supporting clinical decision making and helping to manage the wave of COVID-19 cases.
Whether applied to help detect and treat cancers or used in automated chatbots, AI and Machine Learning has eased the administrative bottlenecks felt across the NHS, and we expect this to be a growing trend in 2021 and beyond.
The technology that we have seen being implemented in 2020 will now be used as we return from a health crisis in 2021. In many ways last year was a turning point at which digital technology will become an indispensable part of everyday healthcare provision.