Top 15 Trends in UK Healthcare 2019

These are both challenging and exciting times for organisations across the UK in the healthcare industry. It’s a period of great uncertainty and yet it is also a time of great change … and with change comes opportunity.

Whether your business is in the public or private hospital sector, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing of healthcare equipment or the distribution of medical supplies – it’s a good time to look at the top trends in the healthcare industry and consider how these might affect your business. We hope this helps you on your journey to greater success and to improving healthcare across the country and beyond.

1. Technological change is taking place at an unprecedented pace

Technology continues to power ahead at an unparalleled rate - with astounding robotics, the wonders of Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, virtual reality, data collection, analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), world-wide mobility, remote monitoring and accessibility offered by keeping data in the Cloud.

2. AI will significantly change business within 5 years

AI will revolutionise the way business is done within the next 5 years - yet very few businesses have introduced wide-scale AI initiatives, or even plan to pursue AI in the next 3 years. AI offers a huge opportunity for growth provided businesses prepare for and adopt AI technology.

3. Digital transformation uptake is low

Even though embracing a range of new technology brings improved efficiency and productivity, better outcomes for patients and significant cost-savings, adoption rates remain low. Many businesses lack the capability to adopt technology; they don’t know how to channel AI and lack the skilled staff to take on the challenge, so they’re unable to work smarter and gain a competitive edge. For companies that take the leap and embrace digital transformation the opportunities to stream ahead of their competition are huge.

4. Data and analytics will change the healthcare sector

There is an abundance of data - but without good analytics, it can be practically useless for proper decision-making. Using accurate data, AI and analytics as part of a technology-driven approach to gathering intelligence, provides deeper insights and allows for better decisions and outcomes. An example of this is ‘data science’ which provides healthcare professionals with valuable information and analysis to help formulate treatments. By using blockchain (secure shared digital data using a portable peer-to-peer system), data can be integrated easily and effectively into the healthcare sector, while remaining compliant with industry standards.

5. Implementation challenges

There’s a lack of knowledge within business on implementing new technologies in a scalable and interconnected way, which can create challenges in the highly regulated Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) markets. Another obstacle is the limited visibility on what a ‘best in class’ facility will look like in 2025, given the unprecedented pace of technological change.

6. Rising demand for healthcare

There’s no doubt an ageing population will need more care in the future, but budgets remain under great pressure. There’s now an urgent need to find smarter, more efficient ways of treating the increasing number of aging people with the highest of standards, but with limited resources.

7. Changing consumer behaviour

Technology is changing the conventional business model, bringing patients and consumers in the Healthcare Industry to the front and centre rather than leaving them on the periphery. Stakeholders, such as physicians, hospitals, health insurers, pharmaceuticals, medical device companies and governments will likely shift their practices toward patient/consumer models that will focus on clinical outcomes, value and patient satisfaction.

New technology is making the lives of patients and consumers better, empowering them and connecting them to the products and services businesses are offering. Patients today are expecting to have a convenient and seamless experience that includes everything from accessing information to making informed decisions and having their questions answered both online and over the phone.

8. Auditing and quality control

While auditing, quality control and other regulations play valuable roles in the healthcare industry, there’s concern the industry is over-regulated. This has a big impact on businesses, with more time needing to be spent on paperwork, credentialing, pre-authorisations and quality measures to ensure compliance. Some challenges businesses face in relation to regulations include:

  • Unscheduled audits
  • Businesses must have proof that items are purchased only from approved suppliers
  • The origin and destination of all components and finished goods must be traceable in case of recalls, complaints etc.
  • Corrective Actions and Preventable Actions (CAPA) controls must be followed
  • Requirements change all the time, such as labelling on a specific item which has to be followed all the way through the supply chain
  • New laws and changes to existing laws must be actioned swiftly.

9. Maintaining cyber security and regulatory compliance

Cyber security is a top concern in the healthcare industry. With its huge volume of high-value data and its growing demand for interconnected IT environments, it’s an attractive target for cybercrime. Protecting this data requires the continued need for evolving government policies, regulatory compliance and oversight, and risk management. Examples of this include the introduction of:

  • 3D Secure credit card processing
  • GDPR - however there’s still some confusion about what data can be securely stored!

Compliance with good practice is important, as well as making business and technology choices that reduce exposure and transform operations to minimise opportunities for attackers.

10. Skills shortage

By 2025, it’s estimated there will be a shortage of 12.9 million healthcare professionals across the world. Already the rate of hiring is dropping due to economic uncertainty and a lack of key-skilled workers. Significant retraining and upskilling is becoming more popular than hiring new talent, so businesses must work harder to identify, nurture and retain the right skills for the continually evolving digital age.

Educators and businesses can work together, innovating and adapting school systems to focus more not only on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills but also “softer” creative and problem-solving skills, as well as empathy. The future is not only for the analytically-minded - people with more creative, outside-the-box mind-sets will also thrive and be more employable for their whole career, regardless of the technology. Securing a skilled and sustainable workforce for the future is a top priority.

11. Confidence in growth is dropping

Confidence in growth is dropping for businesses operating globally, nationally and locally, due to:

  • Growing economic uncertainty
    • Brexit/Eurozone:
      • With the terms of Brexit yet to be confirmed, the true consequence of any deals to be struck remain unknown for the time being, which is increasing economic uncertainty for UK businesses
    • Globally:
      • There’s the possibility of an increase in Protectionism – where domestic industries are protected against foreign competition by way of Government-levied tariffs, import quotas, subsidies or other restrictions put on the imports of foreign competitors
    • Exchange rate volatility
    • Increasing tax burden
    • Access to affordable capital for growth, trials and testing
    • Volatile commodity and energy prices
  • Policy uncertainty
  • Over-regulation
  • Skills shortage
  • Supply chain disruption
  • Social instability
  • Inadequate basic infrastructure
  • Climate change & environmental damage
  • Terrorism
  • New market entrants

12. Rising costs

Rising costs put pressure on governments, private sector payers and consumers, as well as on businesses. More has to be done with fewer resources.

13. Addressing social determinants of health

The need to address social determinants of health, such as housing, education and employment is a major challenge.

Additional Trends Specific to Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences:

Although the Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Industries are faced with the same trends as the rest of Healthcare, there are additional trends specific to these industries:

14. Sales growth is slowing down

Businesses need to provide real innovation, measurable cost-benefit advantages, well-defined product differentiation or meaningful quality-of-life improvements for patients as these markets are quickly becoming saturated.

15. Biosimilars becoming more competitive

There is a more assertive presence of biosimilars, although there remains some debate as to the effect they will have on markets.

In Summary

There’s no doubt that organisations in the healthcare industry across the UK are facing unprecedented challenges, however, these challenges are evenly matched by the opportunities open to progressive companies who are willing to forge-ahead with digital innovation. This can come in many different forms such as integrating current systems or implementing new solutions which feature automation, analytic tools, a single ‘source of truth’ and AI capabilities. A focus on functionalities which improve workflow, speed, flexibility, quality, productivity and profit-margin will be the deciding factor on which organisations are able to survive and thrive over the coming years.

If you are interested to discuss how your organisation could capitalise on the opportunities which digital transformation presents please do get in touch. We have extensive experience working with businesses in the healthcare industry and no technical challenge is too big for us to overcome!