The pandemic accelerated dramatic changes in health care and well-being in 2020 and that’s likely to continue into the New Year.
The Business Group on Health, a non-profit with a membership consisting primarily of Fortune 500 companies and large public-sector employers, who collectively provide health and well-being programs for more than 60 million individuals in 200 countries, identified five trends that will persist in the health care space in 2021. The trends include reimagining health care delivery and supporting the well-being needs of a changing workforce.
Business Group on Health’s 2021 Trends:
1. The Proliferation of Virtual Care
Virtual care, which exploded in 2020, will continue to grow in 2021. Patients will have expanded virtual options and improved availability through telehealth platforms and providers. Virtual care options will also include weight management, care management for chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, prenatal care, and musculoskeletal care management/physical therapy. In addition, more attention will be given to the evaluation of the quality, outcomes, effectiveness, patient experience and cost of virtual care options and innovations, as well as the appropriateness of virtual vs. in-person care for specific services.
2. A Reimagining of Health Care Delivery
The pandemic has resulted in other changes in health care delivery, such as moving lower acuity care out of the hospital to free up beds for patients with COVID-19 and other serious conditions. Moreover, even though employers and plans may have momentarily slowed the expansion of alternative payment and delivery models because of the pandemic, a redoubling of efforts in 2021 will drive improvements in quality and value.
3. A Spotlight on Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being
In large part because of the pandemic, employers stepped up their focus on employee stress and anxiety, loneliness, addiction, depression and other serious mental illness. In 2021, novel approaches such as virtual counseling and the integration of employee assistance programs and mental health benefits, will place mental health on par with other medical conditions.
4. Adapting to the Well-being Needs of a Changing Workforce
Multiple factors, including the pandemic, the economy and the expectations of younger workers, have caused a shift in employees’ well-being needs. For instance, those living alone may struggle with social connection, while others juggling childcare, virtual school or caregiving in the home may have difficulty creating a work-life balance. In 2021, employers will continue to demonstrate flexibility and support employee needs through leave, remote work and other benefits.
5. Addressing Gaps in Health Equity
Disparities in health care as a result of race, ethnicity and geography have been magnified during the pandemic. These gaps manifest themselves in differences in health conditions and outcomes, emotional well-being and mortality. In 2021, the health care ecosystem, including providers, suppliers and payers, will boost efforts to examine and address health equity, while mitigating the harmful effects of social determinants of health.