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What do CEOs on the cutting-edge of health care and technology envision as disruptive forces coming into 2021? It’s not just technology, to start.  

The obvious matter, of course, is vaccine rolloutThere’s little arguing that distribution has thus far been problematic and painfulbut the rapid vaccine development undertaken in 2020 was itself a marvel of innovation. While health care professionals continue administering the vaccine, CEOs within the Health Evolution Innovation Lab revealed expectations for the year ahead.  

“We are still going to be in relative lockdown, either mandated or advised, for the first half of the year,” says Dean Sawyer, CEO of Freespira. “Things are going to open up after that.”   

In the meantime, health care has come front and center in the national conversation, says Zeeshan Syed, CEO, Health at Scale 

“In 2021, we will continue to deal with spillover challenges from 2020,” Syed says. “We now have a system that is slammed. We need to think about how to prioritize.”   

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Prioritization, for both providers and payers, will likely begin with considerable pent-up demand for elective surgeries and other care that people delayed during the pandemic. 

“Utilization will spike back up at some point. Consumers will be more engaged and they’re going to have expectations for convenience and access like they do in all other services that they get, like Amazon with extreme price transparency,” says Kyle Armbrester, CEO, Signify Health. “If I told you, ‘Your Uber is coming and I’m not sure when and I’m not sure how much it will cost,’ you wouldn’t sign up for that service.”   

Patient experience may not have been top of mind for everyday Americans before COVID-19, but Armbrester adds that personalpublic and population health phrases and concepts will become more commonly discussed across the country because of the global pandemic.  

As will the role of governmentsorganizations and individuals in flattening the curve of COVID-19 spread, infections and deaths, which includes understanding the patients most at risk as well as how the disease is affecting people differently, Syed adds. 

“People are going to want more, and I think convenience, access and price transparency are going to be what they wantEmployers are also going to expect those,” Armbrester said. “We have to bring more services to people rather than just waiting for a train wreck to happen and then trying to back that train out of the wreck.” 

In 2020’s emergency response, providers leveraged oft-cited telemedicine utilization spikes to deliver more care servicesTeleheath, at first, was critical to triage and determining whether a patient should seek care in a physical facility. As the pandemic wore on, usage levels settled down but still remain higher than they were prior to COVID-19.   

“Telehealth services will be permanently changed for the better,” Freespira’s Sawyer says. “I don’t think that will change but many patients will go back to see doctors in person when appropriate.”  

In addition to the continued digital advancements expected during 2021Apervita CEO Kevin Hutchinson envisions a strong movement toward digital measures to improve quality measures and an expansion of value-based care 

“There’s a lot of work being done by smart people to focus on measures that matter as we like to say. Only about 35 percent of all measures, and maybe not even that high, are being used so there’s a lot of work to synthesize those down,” Hutchinson says. “And I think we’ll see huge growth in the number of patients and providers participating in full-risk value-based care contracts.  

Homepage photo by Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash