Global healthcare trends

Changing landscape

The coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on the global healthcare sector, including workforce, infrastructure, and digitisation. It’s exposing social inequities in health and care and shifting the paradigm on what collaboration across healthcare systems looks like. The pandemic is therefore accelerating change across the system and forcing public and private health institutions to adapt and innovate.

The pandemic has without a doubt brought about widespread foundational shifts, and some positive disrupters. Examples include:

  • service users being increasingly involved in healthcare decision-making; 
  • the rapid adoption of virtual health and other digital innovations; 
  • increased demand for data analytics in healthcare decision making; and 
  • unprecedented levels of collaborations between previously disparate parts of the healthcare system.

However, amid these tensions, governments, healthcare providers and other stakeholders around the globe have had to adapt or risk failing to safeguard the public.

In this briefing we look at some global healthcare trends that are driving change in the healthcare sector and some considerations for healthcare leaders to use these trends to shape the debate on navigating the post-pandemic world.

This briefing benefits from contributions across RSM’s global healthcare community, which works with over 3,000 healthcare organisations.

1. Waiting times

One of the most critical measures of the quality of a country's healthcare system is how long patients have to wait to access medical care. But the question of which countries have the shortest wait times is complicated by the different ways that countries measure wait time and the differences in the healthcare systems of various countries.

The Ipsos Global Health Service Monitor ran a survey in 30 countries between 30th August and 3rd September 2021. Key findings include:

  • Coronavirus remains the biggest health problem facing people around the world (selected by 70% of people across all 30 countries, only slightly down on the 72% recorded last year).
  • Half as many (34%) say that cancer is an important health concern in 2021, down from 37% last year. Meanwhile, mental health sees a 5-point increase to 31%, putting it just 3 points behind global concern about cancer.
  • Despite a challenging couple of years for healthcare services, public perceptions are holding up well overall: 53% rate their country’s healthcare services positively, and 51% trust they will receive the best treatment.
  • That said, a majority worldwide (56%) say that their country’s healthcare system is overstretched while access to treatment/waiting times is seen to be the main challenge for healthcare services (41%), followed by lack of staff (39%).

2. Learning from the pandemic – future pandemic preparedness

The Global Health Security (GHS) Index assesses countries’ health security and capabilities across six categories and 37 indicators.  The 2021 GHS Index finds that despite significant steps taken by countries to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, all countries remain dangerously unprepared to meet future epidemic and pandemic threats. Importantly, countries now have a more acute understanding of what this lack of preparedness means for their health and prosperity.

Although many countries were able to quickly develop capacities to address COVID-19, all countries remain dangerously unprepared for meeting future epidemic and pandemic threats. A great opportunity exists, however, to make new capacities more durable to further long-term gains in preparedness. Most countries, including high-income nations, have not made dedicated financial investments in strengthening epidemic resilience. Countries are not prepared to prevent globally catastrophic biological events that could cause damage on a larger scale than COVID-19.

The disparity of availability to vaccines across the world with many countries not having access to vaccines and the ability to curb the impact of the pandemic as well as the issue this brings for those individual countries health needs and high levels of deaths may also lead to more and quicker mutations of the virus which with global travel will continue to prolong the effects of coronavirus for the whole world including those with all the vaccines. 

3. Patient experience

Service user requirements are driving innovation in healthcare related products, services, and tools. Their preferences are driving the development of digitally enabled, on-demand, and seamlessly connected clinician-patient interactions. Patients demands require health systems to continue down the path of introducing technology-enhanced health services which can help front line clinicians react quickly, adapt to future challenges and deliver care in better ways to revolutionise experiences for patients and the public.

4. New models of care

Healthcare has shifted away from its post-World War II focus on contagious disease and workplace accidents, which necessitated episodic interventions. Today, the primary goal is preventing and effectively managing chronic conditions. Productivity in healthcare is lagging behind other services industries as these goals shift. New technologies deliver care that is available close to home or in the home, supports continuous self and autonomous care, and reduces friction costs between supporting stakeholders. These shifts create an imperative for stakeholders to move toward an ecosystem-based model of care enabled by technological innovation. Data modelling is being used in new ways at the forefront of decision making. Now that Public Health organisations are working in this way, this approach will be extended to enable digital technology and behavioural science to focus on tackling determinants of health and inequalities.

5. Digital transformation and interoperable data

Digital transformation can help individual healthcare organisations and the wider health ecosystem to improve ways of working, expand access to services, and deliver a more effective patient and clinician experience. Four technologies are playing increasingly pivotal roles around the globe:

  • cloud computing;
  • tele-medicine;
  • artificial intelligence (AI);
  • and virtual care delivery.

Healthcare organisations are increasingly using AI and other forms technology to help diagnose illnesses. This trend is expected to accelerate, with diagnoses and treatment based on technological and scientific advancements including digital therapeutics, epigenetics and AI. The implementation of AI, nanotechnology, quantum computing and fifth-generation technologies will enable faster, customed diagnostics and more bespoke patient care pathways.

6. Social and economic dynamics

Access to care for certain disadvantaged groups is a challenge. This increasing demographic of underserved people groups and communities is leading to systematic disparities in the opportunities that this group has to achieve optimal health, and to unfair and avoidable differences in health outcomes.  

What can healthcare stakeholders do to make health more equitable? Today’s socio-economic, and mental health crises have made it clear that all healthcare providers need to innovate to better serve the whole-health needs of people across the world.

7. Collaboration

One of the positive disruptors of the pandemic is a focus on collaboration across healthcare providers. Opportunities have arisen for new healthcare models, and for more effective stakeholder collaborations.

Another key lesson learnt is the strength and value of collaboration. Vaccine development, production and delivery were achieved in in record time – an unprecedented timeframe for any disease prevention tool. This goes to show that collaborative efforts with the right funding will go a long way in biomedical science.

8. Workforce challenges 

Addressing near-term workforce challenges arising from coronavirus—in particular, safeguarding frontline staff’s safety and well-being—while also building future workforce adaptability and resilience will require data-driven, human-centric solutions that allow organisations to move quickly to support evolving employee needs. 

Additionally, workforce shortages and the pandemic have highlighted how staff often work under enormous strain. Staff also want the option to work flexibly, so health systems are customising both the patient experience for each patient and the work experience for each employee. A talented workforce is essential to the provision of high quality care.

How RSM can help

To discuss the impact of these changes in more detail, please contact our global healthcare specialists.

Clive Makombera Clive Makombera

Partner, Co-Head of NHS

Audrey Fearing Audrey Fearing

Partner, Co-Head of NHS

Suneel Gupta Suneel Gupta

Partner, Head of Private Healthcare

Graham Bond Graham Bond

Office Managing Partner, Chester and Liverpool, Co-Head of Life Sciences

Laragh Jeanroy Laragh Jeanroy

Office Managing Partner Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds, Co-Head of Life Sciences

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