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2021 global health care outlook

Accelerating industry change

With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating change across the health care ecosystem, industry leaders are likely to use the momentum to address six pressing issues in 2021: consumers and the human experience, care model innovation, digital transformation and interoperable data, socio-economic shifts, collaboration, future of work and talent.


The COVID-19 pandemic is placing enormous strain on the global health care sector’s workforce, infrastructure, and supply chain, and exposing social inequities in health and care. COVID-19 is also accelerating change across the ecosystem and forcing public and private health systems to adapt and innovate in a short period.

How health care stakeholders analyze, understand, and respond to the issues arising in 2021 will shape their ability to navigate from recovering to thriving in the postpandemic “new normal” and advance their journey along the path to the Future of Health™. Some of the areas that are likely to stand out in the near future are:

Consumers and the human experience


Consumers are driving—and accelerating—the pace of change in health care. Their needs and goals are driving innovation in health-related products, services, and tools. Their preferences are driving the development of digitally enabled, on-demand, and seamlessly connected clinician-patient interactions.Their demands are driving the transition to patient-centric care delivery across geographies and socioeconomic groups. And their expectations are driving industry stakeholders to elevate a transactional patient/customer health care encounter into a holistic human health experience.

Care model innovation


Health delivery organizations around the world are struggling to solve the long-present challenges of health care affordability, access, quality, and efficiency. However, existing care models can impede their efforts to adapt and evolve for the future, even as COVID-19 accelerates the imperative to transform. Care model innovation can help health delivery organizations to reduce or eliminate many of the challenges arising from today’s delivery models.

Digital transformation and interoperable data


Digital transformation can help individual health care organizations and the wider health ecosystem improve ways of working, expand access to services, and deliver a more effective patient and clinician experience. Three technologies are playing increasingly pivotal roles around the globe—cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual care delivery.

Socioeconomic shifts


Some studies say that up to 80% of health outcomes are affected by social, economic, and environmental factors:1 social determinants of health that include physical environment, food, infrastructure, economy, wealth, employment, education, social connections, and safety.2 An increasing demographic of underserved consumers and communities is leading to health inequities—systematic disparities in the opportunities groups have to achieve optimal health, leading to unfair and avoidable differences in health outcomes.3

What can health care stakeholders do to make health more equitable? Today’s socioeconomic, mental, and behavioral health crises have made it clear that players across the health care landscape need to innovate to better serve the whole-health needs of people across the world.



One legacy of the pandemic is likely to be a renewed focus on collaboration across the health ecosystem. Already, we have seen new relationship paradigms to drive clinical innovation and widespread knowledge and resource-sharing even among traditional competitors, as well as heightened levels of trust. Traditional boundaries have become more porous or even erased, creating opportunities for new health care behaviors, new business and funding models, and more effective stakeholder collaborations, leading to novel combinations of products and services from incumbents and new entrants.4

Future of work and talent


COVID-19 has become the catalyst to a future of work and talent in health care that might otherwise have taken years to attain. The pandemic has overwhelmed many countries’ hospitals and health systems and highlighted gaps in the health care workforce. It has also changed workplace dynamics, introducing digitally enabled agile ways of working—such as using remote clinical and nonclinical staff—to address capacity and demand challenges, and new robotic processes to help support service delivery. Providers are increasingly using data analytics and automated dashboards to ensure staff can work more efficiently and effectively. Crucial enablers include the expansive use of connected care solutions, such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring, and technology-enabled ways of diagnosing, monitoring, and treating patients.

Global health care sector stakeholders are likely to face considerable challenges in 2021; first and foremost, ramping up production and coordinating the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Yet even as they join forces against the pandemic’s immediate crises, organizations also need to understand, analyze, and respond to the trends that are propelling them toward the Future of Health.

Deloitte Global Health Care Center


We are helping companies reshape the life sciences and health care industry as they prepare for a future of health defined by radically interoperable data, open yet secure platforms, and consumer-driven care. Our industry group, composed of over 15,000 professionals in over 90 countries, understands the complexity of today’s life sciences and health care industry challenges, and provide clients with integrated, comprehensive services that meet their respective needs. In today’s environment, Deloitte’s life sciences and health care network helps companies to evolve in a changing marketplace, pursue new and innovative solutions, and sustain long-term profitability.

Learn more

  1. Asif Dhar, “Racism is a public health crisis ,” Health Forward blog, Deloitte, September 8, 2020.

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  2. Elizabeth Baca, “No one should be surprised that low-income populations are being hit harder by COVID-19: How do we achieve health equity? ,” Health Forward blog, Deloitte, October 15, 2020.

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  3. James N. Weinstein et al., Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2017).

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  4. Deloitte, The future unmasked: Predicting the future of healthcare and life sciences in 2025 , October 2020.

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The author would like to thank Terry Koch of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, Sarah Thomas of Deloitte Services LP, Karen Thomas of Deloitte LLP, and Rebecca Schultz for their contributions to this report.

Cover image by: Edu Fuentes

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