What if we took care of our health as passionately as we do sports? These are the 3 Healthcare Trends to watch out for in 2023

What if we took care of our health as passionately as we do sports? These are the 3 Healthcare Trends to watch out for in 2023

Sports and health have always been closely linked. But this month more so than ever, considering that the United States is hosting the Super Bowl. Since this event attracts a great deal of exposure, excitement, and attention around the world, it begs the question: “How can this passion and media attention be translated into conversations about health, prevention, and access to quality medicine to encourage people to take care of themselves as a trendy habit?”

Thankfully, in 2023 we seem to be closer to that reality given that people are increasingly taking care of their overall wellness since the pandemic of 2021. According to an Ipsos survey from February 2021 in 15 countries, 79% of people say they consume products and services aimed at helping them take care of their overall health, and the same percentage reported that they take care of the type of food and beverages they eat and drink. Moreover, the study highlights the rise of physical and mental wellbeing, which is a sign of hope for the future.

But will this increased interest in wellness be enough to promote healthy habits and help fight preventable diseases? What role does technology play in the development of new health treatments? What other health trends will the new year bring?

1. Self-care and Prevention: The new “quarterbacks”

Self-care and prevention represent the first step towards a healthy healthcare system. And, much like the quarterbacks in American football that are in charge of directing plays and strategies, the two concepts mentioned beforehand will be playing a similar role in achieving a comprehensive approach to global health. In fact, self-care and prevention are themes that will play a pivotal role in 2023 according to the WHO. Since 2020, the WHO’s strategy seeks to expand universal healthcare coverage and ensure that more than 100 million people have access to healthcare services this year.

The WHO prioritizes preemptive preparedness and responding to health emergencies as a key strategy to promote healthier populations and advocate for a multisectoral approach that addresses health risk factors, including Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). As a response, governments from around the world like the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) started the year by issuing a press release announcing: “The best New Year’s resolution is to take care of yourself, focusing not only on your physical health, but also on your mental health.” This message reflects the worldwide interest from governments seeking to shift from a curative to a preventive approach. The message also reflects the investment in health education, because if more patients take care of themselves and maintain their own health as well as treat non-serious symptoms and illnesses at home, then the time and money it saves allows institutions and specialists to focus on more serious conditions, ultimately benefiting consumers, doctors, and governments alike.

The financial challenges associated with promoting preventive medicine

Given this reality, we must establish health-promoting policies that prioritize investing in preventive medicine and provide access to quality medical care to everyone in a context where the global economic outlook is “red”.

According to the World Bank, world growth is slowing dramatically because of high inflation, growing interest rates, a drop in investments and the disruptions caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Bank expects the global economy to grow by 1.7% in 2023, with falling domestic forecasts expected for 70% of emerging market and developing economies. This could have negative consequences for governments, especially in the Latin American region, which may impact the financing of public services, including those public health services.

Growing demands for medicines and information

On the other hand, the rise in health awareness has led to an increased demand for health-related products and services, which presents an opportunity for a more dynamic industry and new business developments. As such, the use of medicines will increase over the next five years, reaching a total of 3.4 trillion by 2027. This is an 8% increase compared to the 2022 figures, with Latin America, Asia, and Africa experiencing the highest volume growth, driven by population growth and greater access to healthcare.

Thus, over-the-counter (OTC) medications – those that do not require a doctor’s prescription for purchase – will experience the greatest growth. In Latin America alone, over-the-counter (OTC) medications are expected to reach $7 billion by 2025, with a 5% growth compared to 2020. In the United States, OTC medications are expected to reach $11 billion by 2025, presenting a 4% growth compared to 2020. This upward trend shows that the population is willing to spend more, but this also means they need adequate information on how to consume these drugs.

Creative and responsible digital marketing

The demand for these drugs is also resulting in an increase in advertising and marketing strategies to attract new consumers. A recent study conducted by IRI Worldwide revealed how 57% of consumers search for information about OTC products online before making a purchase in a physical store and 61% of consumers that search for information online end up buying the product in a physical store. Thus, the study highlights social media as an important source of essential information for consumers, with 34% of respondents reporting they use these platforms to obtain information about OTC products. These figures hold digital marketing teams accountable for providing accurate and relevant information regarding these products and present an opportunity to create new customer journeys through loyalty actions that improve product positioning on search engines, websites and social media, both in an organic and paid way.

Although it seems that 2023 will be a year of marked contrasts — in terms of growth and consolidations within the drug market combined with funding restrictions to promote the preventive approach — as well as an increased commitment by left-leaning governments in Latin America to strengthen public health, will lead the key decision-making in order to achieve stronger health systems, as if they were “quarterbacks.”

2. Digital Solutions and Virtual Care: Wearables and Remote Monitoring Devices, like all the Runners

Until now, most people that bought wearables were curious to monitor their exercise and wellness data. And while it was certainly interesting to get information on the steps, calorie consumption or sleep stats, these devices were just an accessory. In 2023, this paradigm will change. Wearables and remote monitoring devices will no longer be lifestyle devices, but life-changing and life-enhancing devices.

These key figures about the remote patient monitoring industry are imposing. The global market for these devices is expected to reach $491 billion by 2026, a 27% increase from 2019. In addition, the number of patients using remote monitoring devices is estimated to increase from 2.5 million in 2016 to more than 20 million by 2026, according to Insider Intelligence.

This is a clear sign that technology is revolutionizing the way physicians deliver care to their patients, since these tools allow specialists to monitor their patients’ health outside of a clinical setting, which can improve efficiency and convenience for all parties.

Devices designed to manage diabetes and cardiovascular diseases

The most common devices used to  monitor patients remotely are expected to include heart rate monitors, blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters, physical activity tracking devices and glucose monitors. These devices will also allow you to measure blood pressure, temperature, take an EKG, measure heart rate, measure the oxygenation and send this data directly to a healthcare provider or your doctor, which can gather valuable information about patient health. This information, including vital signs and blood glucose levels, can be very useful in detecting arrhythmias, coronary heart disease as well as managing diabetes, among others. They also offer additional benefits for healthcare providers that implement home health monitoring systems by reducing admissions, hospitalizations and, consequently, the cost of hospitalizations.

A new wave of “miniaturization”

Miniaturization is the next trend for these devices. Manufacturers are making smaller and less invasive products, while partnering with new players to expand their market growth. For example, the developer of glucose monitoring systems for diabetes management, Dexcom, has partnered with Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences unit, to make a new implantable diabetes sensor that transmits health data to monitoring devices or smartphones via bluetooth. This is just one of many examples of the kinds of health technology bets that we are likely to see in the coming months.

Much like the running backs in the NFL carry the ball down the field and move quickly on the offense, these digital solutions collect information and deliver that information in order to detect health problems at an early stage and provide personalized health recommendations, which will have major benefits for both personal and public health overall.

3. On the receiving end: Using Big Data to better understand patients

After the remote monitoring devices collect the information, we get a large amount of data. So, the question here is the same as the catcher of the ball would ask himself during a game: “Now that I have the ball, what do I do with it?” In other words, how do I analyze the existing data that is archived in hospitals, in clinics or in the cloud? This is what healthcare data analytics based on Big Data seeks to answer. It uses data-driven findings to predict and solve problems before it is too late, but it also evaluates methods and treatments quicker, engages patients more with their own health and gives them the tools they need to do so.

Personalized medicine

In 2023, both the public and private sectors will encourage the use of tools and technologies to generate local data that enables the collection and analysis of large amounts of genomic and health data to develop new treatments and therapies with personalized medicine. And, on the other hand, will help better understand the insights of individual patients and prescribers to help make better decisions regarding the needs of this audience and their perceptions once they’ve been given a prescription.

This new paradigm combined with groundbreaking advances in digital therapeutics, cloud-based platforms, and smart medical devices will make it easier to decentralize real-time data collection and processing, while potentially accelerating the adoption of a holistic approach to healthcare and personalized treatment.

The standardization of decentralized clinical trials

This year, we expect the number of decentralized clinical trials (DCTs) to continue to grow as clinical trial sponsors are expected to automatically consider which aspects of the trials can be decentralized, rather than whether or not they should be decentralized.

With this mindset change, the benefits are endless. There is greater accessibility since more patients can participate regardless of their geographic location and thus, increase patient representation. By having a more diverse participant population, this enables a  higher quality of research with more accurate and generalizable data. Finally, decentralized trials may also bring greater public confidence since it demonstrates a commitment to the democratization of clinical trials.

A promising future

The same way it takes great players such as the quarterback, the running back, or the wide receiver to win a game like the one on Sunday, the healthcare sector also requires a joint effort to prevent, diagnose, monitor, and provide access to the right treatments and to cure diseases that cause the greatest concern to healthcare experts nowadays. These illnesses include mental illness, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory tract infections, influenza, obesity and diabetes, and the aging population.

Each season, both on the playing field and in the healthcare sector, these players change depending on the market, new consumer demands, new viruses or epidemics, as well as technological and scientific discoveries that revolutionize the field of medicine. And while there is no certainty as to whether the trends or predictions listed above will be the ones that will lead to better access to global healthcare, the desire, investment, experience, learning and optimism towards strengthening healthcare systems is what seems to reign in 2023. Because we already know: “Champions keep playing until they get it right.”

Ana LluchConsultora Senior LLYC Healthcare Américas

Ana LluchConsultora Senior LLYC Healthcare Américas