Healthcare and life sciences unmasked: A future accelerated by COVID-19 - Thoughts from the Centre | Deloitte UK

By Karen Taylor, Director, Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions


Over the last few weeks of 2020 we published a series of ten predictions on what the future of healthcare and life sciences looks like in 2025. Each prediction follows the same format, including a number of ‘portraits’ imagining the experience of individuals and organisations in 2025, the evidence today that enables us to predict tomorrow and the common constraints that need to be overcome to realise the prediction. We also considered how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected each prediction. Subsequently, we brought all of the predictions together in one report: The future unmasked: Predicting the future of healthcare and life sciences in 2025 and launched a podcast with senior leaders from our life sciences and healthcare practice discussing how the predictions affect their parts of the industry. I have used this first blog of 2021 to examine the cross cutting constraints that need to be overcome to realise our view of the future.

About our predictions

Our research was undertaken at a pivotal time for the health ecosystem. Healthcare and life sciences organisations were already on a steady, albeit relatively slow path towards digital transformation. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a dramatic acceleration, achieving advances in nine months that would have previously taken many years. Importantly, the pandemic has changed the mind-sets of clinicians, patients, governments and industry on the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘where’ of care delivery. We have seen the establishment of innovative, cross-industry collaborations and partnerships based on shared purpose and values. Unquestionably, the pandemic has transformed the world as we know it, and neither life sciences nor healthcare organisations are likely to want to, or be able to, revert back to their previous ways of working.

Underpinning all of our predictions are four enablers that currently act as constraints to change:

  1. the acquisition of new skills and talent
  2. new funding and business models
  3. a new regulatory paradigm
  4. solutions to data interoperability, privacy and security concerns.

Enabler 1- Acquisition of new skills and talent

Realising the predictions requires healthcare organisations to integrate specialist and generalist skills and acquire new talent, including digital, analytical and behavioural science skills. Deloitte’s 2020 report, ‘Global Human Capital Trends’, has identified forces such as cognitive technologies and the open talent economy that will reshape the future workforce. Organisations will therefore need to re-design jobs, re-organise work and embrace new ways of working. While the technology is available today to automate many of the more repetitive tasks and enable such changes, adoption at scale will require leaders with a digital-first mind-set and robust change management skills. They will also have to ensure that the ‘essentially human’ parts of work such as empathy, communication, persuasion, problem solving, judgement and strategic decision become central to their organisation’s mission, vision and values.

By 2025, the public’s digital and health literacy will have been improved - bolstering their confidence in using digital technologies to monitor and manage their health. Digital inclusion initiatives will have improved equity of access to digital-first healthcare and have reduced health inequalities. Public health professionals will have been upskilled, improving their understanding of population health needs, and preparing them to respond to health threats, utilising advanced data analytics and targeted evidence based interventions. Employers will recruit staff from more diverse educational and social backgrounds and provide more enriched career paths underpinned by new ways of continuous learning, with task shifting and task reorganisation being commonplace, leading to a diverse, augmented workforce that provides care where and when needed. They also recognise the importance of cognitive, digital, emotional and analytical skills, including communicating more effectively diagnoses derived from genomic, digital and AI applications to patients.

Enabler 2- New funding and business models

In the future, a greater proportion of healthcare funding will be devoted to public health as policymakers shift the focus from sickness and cure to wellness and disease prevention. By 2025, the cost of sensors and genetic testing has decreased significantly, with individuals being prepared to invest their own money in therapies to help them age well. At the same time, governments and the longevity financing industry are going to be major investors in ‘AgeTech’ with aligned incentives and data-driven funding models attracting new stakeholders and driving innovation across the health ecosystem while supporting equality of access to digital solutions.

New payment models across healthcare and life sciences organisations will use innovative contracting and value-based funding arrangements at scale requiring increased investment in integrated digital transformation, including data, analytics, research collaborations and AI companies. These changes will deliver financial benefits across the value chain and remunerate staff for developing sought after skills.

Enabler 3 - A new regulatory paradigm

Traditionally, life sciences and healthcare organisations have adopted a risk-averse approach to regulation which has impeded the adoption of innovation at scale. The evidence today and predictions for tomorrow illustrate that the regulatory environment which was evolving has changed dramatically, building on their experience during the pandemic. We predict that in 2025, regulators will be adept at balancing the need to foster innovation, protect patients and address the consequences of innovation. Governments will have worked with regulators to increase their internal efficiency, reduce the compliance burden on industry, and improve the effectiveness of the regulatory process.

By 2025, regulators have adopted new regulatory frameworks and embedded a more consistent and interconnected approach to regulation globally, including alliances among regulators and a more collaborative approach in driving quality and transparency, improving public trust in the products. Regulators work with industry to develop products and solutions based on a security-by-design mind-set and a trustworthy framework for data exchange, real world evidence and robust cyber security standards. New regulatory pathways will have increased flexibility, transparency and speed of approval to optimise commercial objectives and patient outcomes.

Enabler 4 - Solutions for data, interoperability, privacy and security concerns

The current data challenges include a fragmented data landscape and lack of interoperability, as well as problems with data quality, data privacy, protection, and cybersecurity have been tackled in a coordinated manner with data seen as an essential element, like water, that ‘flows fluidly across boundaries, is readily accessible and cleaned for use’. Patients will own their health data and decide who to share it with and why, democratising health data as part of a value exchange.

By 2025, data science and cloud technologies will have improved the security, completeness and quality of health and behavioural data with internationally agreed interoperability standards, supporting data sharing across all stakeholders. Organisations will have adopted FAIR (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse) data principles and protocols for the exchange and use of data, as well as a robust governance framework and eConsent systems. Open data sharing is the common ‘truth’ on which partnerships have been formed, and healthcare transactions are undertaken. Providers will have built an open multi-omics data ecosystem and use distributed databases and secure transcription to address privacy and security concerns. Staff will understand data provenance, curation, integration and governance, and the ethical, data privacy and security considerations associated with technology.


As the healthcare business model evolves, population health management, value-based healthcare, big data analytics, AgeTech and health management applications will become commonplace and health information exchanges seen as an integral part of the health ecosystem. By 2025, all stakeholders are focused much more overtly on prevention and mitigating the impact of communicable and non-communicable diseases, creating stronger linkages between the public and private sectors and dramatically improving patient outcomes. Data has fuelled a wave of intelligent automation opportunities across the health ecosystem, with data scientists, business analysts and knowledge workers, optimising the use of data and insights at speed and scale. Technologies such as 5G, cloud and edge computing will provide the scale and speed to drive the new virtual health ecosystem. Meanwhile, all enterprises will have re-architected the way they work, creating solutions to transform performance and become truly patient –centric data-led organisations.

Tune into our latest episode of the Life Sciences Connect podcast, in which I discuss our predictions with my colleagues Hanno Ronte, Shivani Maitra, and Sara Siegel. Focussing on how the pandemic has accelerated industry trends and what this means for organisations. Listen now:


Karen Taylor - Director, UK Centre for Health Solutions

Karen is the Research Director of the Centre for Health Solutions. She supports the Healthcare and Life Sciences practice by driving independent and objective business research and analysis into key industry challenges and associated solutions; generating evidence based insights and points of view on issues from pharmaceuticals and technology innovation to healthcare management and reform.

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