2021 Trends to Watch

At least the predictions for 2021 have a good chance to appear more accurate than last year, right? As the ratio of vaccinated people we know gradually surpasses those that suffered from COVID-19, it seems like a good time to look ahead and see what trends may be worthy of watching. Here are two transitions that spring to mind: Hospitals > Homes and Pioneers > Sooners. Let’s briefly look at each.

Site of Care.

The most important and exciting trend to watch in 2021 is where care will be administered. COVID forced people to choose between getting care in a hospital filling up with patients, cancelling appointments altogether, or seeking a site that is much more convenient- home. Hospital Admission Rates dropped suddenly during COVID which led to the rocket-like rise of telehealth. But the pandemic also accelerated savvy services like Dispatch Health, who bring care directly to your sofa. It’s not just the billionaires at Pelaton or Zoom, everyone wants to be invited into your living room! Some of the services I am watching include: Amazon’s pharmacy delivery play, PillPack, LabCorp’s Pixel, “the Theranos that actually works,” robust Remote Monitoring and Diabetes Treatments, Virtual Substance Abuse Services and Remote Physical Therapy. There are many other worthy services that are upending the status quo for site of care.

This trend goes far beyond Google buying FitBit or Apple Watch adding apps. It’s important when tens of millions of patients decide that they no longer want to visit the big hospital or nearby clinic, it’s exciting when they can get the treatment they need from their favorite chair. Positive changes are coming, but they never seem to arrive on time.

We keep on waiting… waiting on the world to change…

– John Mayer, singing along with everyone in Healthcare

Pioneers are easy to spot, so the saying goes, just look for folks in front of you with arrows in their backs. The good news is that we suffer no shortage of healthcare pioneers. They are busy launching apps, building devices and creating services that undoubtedly disrupt the status quo. However, what our world needs more than ever is not more pioneers or pilgrims- but Sooners. This year, we need bridge builders that will cross the chasm and connect with the majority of patients to improve health outcomes and wealth incomes.

You’ve done well, Pilgrim. you’ll go far! Provided you’re not burned alive, or scalped.

-Old Mountain Man to new pioneer Robert Redford, Jeremiah Johnson

In nearly every field, when an innovation is introduced, there is a predictable adoption rate. Whether it’s farmers planting better seeds, surgeons adopting new techniques, or students switching to iPhones, adoption patterns follow a similar pattern called the Diffusion of Innovation.

This graph helps explain why clearly better products or services take a painfully long time to change the world. Pioneers account for less than 3% of the marketplace. Nothing happens without Pioneers, they are the creators- the stuff of Apple ads. But Sooners are the key to reaching the bigger marketplace- they validate the innovation and introduce it to the slower-moving majority. Another way to think about Sooners is to consider the importance of fast followers. Neither leaders nor laggards, they nonetheless make or break a movement- or healthcare service. This matters more in 2021 because so many important innovations were conceived during COVID. The majority will not make it because they will fail to win over the Sooners. To wit, one of my favorite Pioneers, Dr Eric Bricker on Haven Quitting.

So, The Great Sorting Out has begun. Being better than the status quo is simply not enough to survive, or scale. You need Sooners. Therefore, this year I’m keeping an eye on those that focus on building roads to the majority of the market, from the game-changers at Health Rosetta and Pacific Business Group on Health to local leaders, like you. Huzzah!

May 2021 be a much better lap around the sun- for everyone!

Guest blog provided by Patrick Long, Hero HealthPlans