Post-COVID Tech Trends in Healthcare –  What Will Stick and What Will Slide 

Updated on October 15, 2023
Health protection. Medical and health care concept.business documents on office table with smart phone and laptop and two colleagues discussing data in the background

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global healthcare landscape witnessed an unprecedented transformation. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of innovative technologies, reshaping patient-provider interactions, operational processes, and the very nature of healthcare delivery. Telehealth appointments, retail delivery, and do-it-yourself (or “DIY”) approaches to healthcare all received significant media and consumer attention while we were waiting for the “all clear” signal to leave our homes. 

Fast forward to present day – the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared COVID-19 no longer a global health emergency. As society shifts away from a pandemic mindset, it begs the question: Are these innovations here to stay? In this article, we will assess the durability of these changes through the lens of human-centricity and patient experience – a pivotal approach for organizations seeking to thrive in a rapidly evolving landscape.

What’s happened to the big trends 

Telehealth

The concept of telehealth – the delivery of healthcare without an in-person office visit – is far from new.  Literature suggests that the idea has been around for over a century.  But to most healthcare consumers, telehealth didn’t become real until it became necessary.  That necessity arose in early 2020 when we were no longer able to simply ring up our PCPs for an appointment.  At that moment, the enabling technologies that had existed for some time – secure broadband internet connections, appropriate hardware (camera, microphone), video platforms, and tech support – were pressed into service.  According to the CDC, telehealth visits between patients and providers were up by 150% in March 2020 vs. the same period in 2019.  And that was just the start of the pandemic.

Interestingly, while the hype has receded a bit and use appears to have flattened from a pandemic peak, telehealth appears to be poised for sustained if not explosive growth.  We believe it may represent a superior option for populations with limited physical access such as rural residents, or those with specialized needs such as chronic condition maintenance, mental wellness, and substance abuse treatment.  

Retail healthcare delivery

For quite a while, many of us have gotten used to heading to the pharmacy counter at our local drug or grocery store for our yearly flu shot.  With the extreme demands for scale associated with the COVID vaccine rollout, drug and grocery pharmacies are getting smarter and more aggressive in their plans for growth.  A flu shot visit is often a cross-selling opportunity for a COVID booster, a shingles vaccination or similar service – and this is often accompanied by a coupon for daily shopping.  

As convenient as this may be, robust execution almost invariably translates into a need for improved technology and systems.  Some of these efforts may not be immediately visible to consumers like Rite Aid’s focus on efficiency to free up pharmacist time.  Others, such as CVS’s Virtual Care portfolio that encompasses apps as well as a variety of virtual health services are expressly consumer-facing.  While a number of retailers are struggling despite offering additional services, we think there is promise in meeting the consumer in their own neighborhood.  

The key will be matching offers and services to consumer interests while conveying an appropriate level of expertise to drive trust and delivering a seamless experience.  Will most folks seek out their travel vaccinations at their local supermarket?  Perhaps, but only if that’s a better, simpler option than their local doc.

“DIY” healthcare

The final trend we’re looking at is the rise in what we refer to as “DIY” healthcare – essentially, patient-controlled technologies that enable management of one or more aspects of healthcare without the presence of a medical professional.  Think about the sub-$100 medical grade EKG monitor that fits in your wallet we see advertised on TV.  Or the colon cancer screening kit.  Or even the ever-more-powerful activity monitors that also evaluate sleep, breathing, heart rate and more.  There’s seemingly no limit to what we’ll be able to do on our own.  

We can all become empowered, engaged healthcare consumers, according to the advertising.  But while humans are ever inclined to measure more, we still lack the reassurance that (a) we’re measuring the right things, and (b) we’re taking the right actions based on what we know.  

That’s where medical professionals come in.  They’re uniquely suited to help patients make sense of all the new data; however, they can’t be expected to do it alone.  That’s why we expect to see a couple of things unfold:  Additional regulatory guidance to validate measurement protocols, and data management expertise to help healthcare providers understand how best to evaluate and integrate DIY measurement for a whole patient view.  

We expect this will be a long-term play, but it’s not too soon to think about the practicalities and potential of incorporating new data streams into the patient record.

How can organizations pivot?

As we adapted to the COVID-19 world, healthcare organizations learned to pivot and innovate swiftly to meet dynamically changing needs. But as our world continues to shift, those same organizations must now sort through the innovations that make most sense to carry into the future.

For organizations seeking to create and nurture holistic, human-centric strategies into the future, consider these points of truth: Technology is bringing a range of healthcare options closer to consumers than ever before.

For this trend to continue, innovations will need to provide genuine advancements in convenience, control and access. Medical offices and pharmacies can no longer assume they’re only being compared to each other, but also to world-class organizations like Apple and Amazon. We must acknowledge that consumers want what they want, when they want it and where they want it. Consumers want a seamless experience that fits into their unique schedule and lifestyle. Making the most of opportunities across the healthcare delivery system demands a level of human understanding to balance what is technically possible with what appeals to consumers. People want the ability to take charge of their own health on their own terms, but also want the reassurance that comes from familiar providers. Balance is critical.

We believe the examples above are not transient responses to the pandemic, but rather building blocks of a reshaped healthcare paradigm. Brands that commit to human-centricity and wield technology as an enabler of meaningful interactions will be positioned as leaders in the healthcare industry.

Scott Laing Human8 Square 1 copy
Scott Laing
Senior Director, Account Strategy at Human8

With deep experience spanning startups to the Fortune 500, Scott enjoys bringing fresh ideas and critical thinking to clients across a range of industries. He’s a believer in the power of applied insights having co-founded analytics consultancies Deckchair Data – which joined forces with Human8 in 2022 – and Parametric Marketing, as well as leading the Marketing Research practice group at ORC International. He has substantial experience in all areas of Marketing. Prior to his involvement in the insights industry, Scott was with Hewlett-Packard in a variety of analytical marketing and product management roles at HP’s Corvallis, OR, Vancouver, WA and Böblingen, Germany sites.  He holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a MSIA from Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School.

Meaghan Hafner
Meaghan Hafner
Vice President, Health Care Insights & Strategy at Human8

Meaghan Hafner is a seasoned professional in the field of healthcare, serving as the Vice President of Health Care Insights & Strategy at Human8. With a strong background in healthcare analytics and strategic planning, Meaghan plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of healthcare brands, healthcare services and improving patient outcomes.