Healthcare was redefined in 2020 as the industry transformed digitally at an unprecedented rate to adapt to the pandemic. This forced transformation was just the beginning.

As a public health crisis continues to loom, many healthcare provider organizations stand on the verge of new case surges and health insurers face threats to future financial performance. In 2021, transformation (and not just digital) will continue on a grander scale, bringing forth greater and sustained transformation across all healthcare settings. The word “digital” will fall to the wayside as we adjust to a new normal and digital consumer experiences and the digital back office just blend into healthcare.

  • The collapse of primary care will force health insurers to reformulate plan benefits. Patient engagement has dropped off a cliff in recent years, as nearly 50% of consumers have avoided seeking care from a primary care provider for more than a year. Primary care is the entry point for many consumers in healthcare and the first line of defense in detecting chronic conditions and mental health needs — the major drivers of medical spend in the US. Primary care as we know it today stands in the crosshairs, with new entrants vying for the hearts of consumers who legacy healthcare ignored for too long.
  • More than one-third of virtual care visits will be for mental health. Mental health has become the shadow crisis of the pandemic and will be a major driver behind sustained virtual care engagement. The mental health crisis will stretch into 2021 as many suffering in silence reach a breaking point and consumers struggle to overcome barriers to affordable access. Virtual mental health visit demand will remain high, estimated to total 138 million visits in 2021. This will equal approximately 31% of all virtual care visits over the year.
  • Every company bringing employees back will become a healthcare company. Onsite clinics, symptom screening technology vendors, and diagnostic testing partners are increasingly working with enterprise occupational health and human resources teams to bring new healthcare expertise to the workplace and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. In 2021, for those businesses that bring employees back, these vendors will move to entrench themselves in the workplace indefinitely. While enterprises will experience multiple benefits, such as reduced absenteeism and improved employee experience, local health systems and retail clinic operators will lose visit volume as employees chose more convenient and price-transparent care at work.

Last year, we made the call that 2020 would be the tipping point for virtual care, and now, amid a pandemic, it has become a lifeline for consumers across the globe. Which of our 2021 predictions will have the greatest impact on an industry that has already undergone so much change?

Read our report for more details on what 2021 has in store for healthcare. To understand the major dynamics that will impact firms across other industries next year, download Forrester’s Predictions 2021 guide.