By Karen Taylor, Samrina Bhatti and Krissie Ferris, Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions
This is the last week in the staggered launch of the final two predictions in our report ‘The future unmasked: Predicting the future of healthcare and life sciences in 2025’. Our predictions: ‘Healthcare and life sciences companies have prioritised decarbonisation’, and ‘Clusters of trusted partnerships have accelerated innovation’ explore two crucial developments in the evolving relationship between the stakeholders in the health ecosystem. These are the increased priority companies are giving to reducing their carbon footprints and the growth in trusted partnerships and collaborations between stakeholders. We also examine the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had in accelerating the pace of change.
Healthcare and life sciences companies have prioritised the acceleration of their decarbonisation goals
While the COVID-19 pandemic has not changed the fundamentals of the climate crisis, it has helped galvanise action at government and organisational level. Moreover, the pandemic has demonstrated quite clearly the interrelationship between health and the environment and provided the life sciences and healthcare (LSHC) industry with opportunities to accelerate their ambition to deliver longer-term reductions in carbon emissions. For example, a number of healthcare and global life sciences companies have committed to bring forward the target date on becoming a ‘net zero’ organisation.
Contributing to this ambition is the fact that, during the pandemic, many healthcare and life sciences organisations had to transform their operating models almost overnight including accelerating the digitalisation of their supply chains. Companies had to adopt new ways of engagement, including virtual consultations and virtual clinical trials, reducing the need for travel and, as a consequence, reducing carbon emissions. Conversely, other responses to the pandemic, such as an increased need for cold-chain transportation and demand for single-use technology and PPE, risk undermining decarbonisation goals. Nevertheless, all stakeholders across the health ecosystem continue to acknowledge their responsibility to take action in response to the threat to health from climate change.
In 2025, organisations are focused on being sustainable and responsible businesses
By 2025, healthcare and life science organisations have enjoyed five years of deploying mitigation strategies to reduce their carbon footprint. Initiatives include improving waste management and water usage, adopting renewable energy and greener procurement policies, and choosing low-carbon transport delivery systems.
Resilient pharma companies have implemented carbon neutral solutions across their manufacturing and supply chains with intelligent automation strategies improving carbon efficiency, such as widespread adoption of robotic process automation and virtual clinical trials. They have also adopted the principles of circularity (reduce, reuse, recycle) by developing closed loop product life cycles and reducing the use of raw materials and associated emissions.
Healthcare providers have switched from disposable to reusable instruments wherever possible, improved handling and transportation costs (for example, ‘near-shoring’ has reduced transportation mileage) and reduced use of landfill sites, saving costs whilst improving sustainability. They are also focused on prevention and have radically transformed care delivery models by focusing on prevention and reducing the need for face-to-face care due to the widespread use of remote patient monitoring, virtual consultations and electronic prescriptions. Providers actively choose medical supplies and equipment with lower carbon footprints.
Both life sciences and healthcare organisations have made significant strides in phasing out their use of fossil fuels and have reduced their carbon footprints by switching to renewable ‘healthier’ energy and prioritising suppliers that have zero-carbon landfill policies, recycle waste and water, as well as use sustainable materials in packaging and parts. In 2025, the focus is clearly on being sustainable, responsible businesses (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Healthcare and life sciences companies are focused on being sustainable and responsible businesses
Source: Deloitte Analysis
Clusters of trusted partnerships have accelerated innovation
The level of national and international collaboration triggered by COVID‑19 has surpassed all historical precedents. While many types of partnerships were established before the pandemic, there has been an extraordinary increase in collaborations between regulators, governments, healthcare providers, the life science industry, tech giants and consumer health businesses. These collaborations and partnerships have brought stakeholders together to tackle the pandemic, improve population health, and help economies to survive and ultimately thrive. They also refocused their priorities to support clinical trials, develop test, track and trace systems, upscale the adoption of digital and virtual care solutions and tackle challenges in the supply chain. Established life sciences clusters were well positioned to face up the challenge and drive global excellence.
The scale of partnering and collaboration has led to a wave of innovations with the sharing of knowledge and IP across value chains, accelerating the search for treatments and vaccines. Funding and support from government and NGOs expedited these innovations. By November 2020, three leading vaccine candidates had been submitted for regulatory approval, ten months since commencing drug discovery and development. This week, following regulatory approval, the UK is the first western nation to have begun a mass immunisation programme against the novel coronavirus.1 The speed in which the LSHC industry was able to develop, manufacture, supply and deliver vaccines is largely due to the level of collaboration between stakeholders, including regulators (Figure 2).
Figure 2. How health ecosystems responded to the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the power of collaboration in healthcare
In 2025, collaborative working has redefined traditional operating models for a more cost-effective health ecosystem
By 2025, building on the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple types of trusted partnerships between industry, academia and providers, supported by government funding and incentives have helped concentrate innovation in clusters. These clusters embody a commitment to improve the health and wealth of local communities and have shared views on value exchange, business ethics, data and risk sharing, accelerating adoption of revolutionary new medicines and technology at scale. They are also backed by a creative and reputable financial services sector, and operate within a new regulatory paradigm, creating the optimal conditions for the development of new value based healthcare (VBHC) business models, with savings delivered to the broader health system. Clusters of academic, life sciences and healthcare companies have accelerated the pace of innovation and driven the adoption of innovative therapies and technology faster than ever before.
Through working collaboratively, stakeholders across the health ecosystem have developed new ways of delivering and paying for prevention, health and wellness. These stakeholders also recognise the importance of investing in and nurturing a high degree of trust within and between clusters and across different types of partnerships, including with patients and the public. New standards for data, analysis, and products and services have emerged with trust and an emphasis on data sharing and transparency; improved patient outcomes and efficiencies, better access and reduced costs.
These final two predictions in our series bring together two important concepts affecting companies cross the healthcare and life sciences industry, namely
- a shared purpose and vision to be more sustainable, responsible businesses and specifically to become net zero within the next five or so years
- a growing belief in the power of ‘we’ rather than the power of ‘me’ through trusted collaborations and partnerships.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of collaborations but also the link between health, the environment and the economy. As we hurtle towards the end of 2020 and turn our attention to 2021, challenging times lie ahead. While our predictions are unashamedly optimistic we contend it is necessary to focus on the art of the possible if we are to respond effectively to these challenges.
Our final blog next week will look back on all of the predictions and the constraints that have to be overcome if they are to be realised. For more information, you can find our full report here.