4 Healthcare Technology Trends for 2021

2020 brought unprecedented changes to healthcare. While we hope the world won’t be thrown another curveball this year, we do expect to see some of last year’s innovative solutions to the pandemic become long-term trends.

#1: Safe, predictable healthcare options

While telehealth has been around for a long time, legislation and billing complications kept it from growing to its full potential – until the pandemic forced American healthcare to take a leap into the virtual world. Telehealth suddenly became essential, because it was the only way to keep patients and providers completely safe from COVID-19.

While telehealth can’t take the place of all doctor’s visits, patients will still want the option of telehealth long after the pandemic is over. Not only is telehealth a great option for contagious COVID-19 patients, but it’s also an important asset for patients living with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or mental illnesses that make leaving home difficult. Busy parents and workers benefit from not needing to travel to a doctor’s office and sit in a waiting room during work hours. In short, telehealth offers convenience, greater access to care, and reduced risk of contagion.

But if patients are receiving healthcare from the comfort of home, why should they risk going to a brick-and-mortar pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions? The industry already had a solution ready and waiting: digital pharmacies and home delivery. As states put movement restrictions in place, pharmacies that already offered mail-order medications or same-day delivery were well-positioned. Pharmacies without an alternative hustled to create their own delivery or curbside solution or partner with ScriptDrop.

At this point, delivery has become an important differentiator for pharmacies, allowing them to remain competitive despite losing their walk-in shoppers. In fact, as we discovered in our case study with a partner health center, pharmacies that actively market their delivery options can increase their volume and end up filling more prescriptions. Patients want a contactless option that is predictable and convenient. Mail-order and prescription delivery fit the bill.

#2: Privacy and security

Embracing the digital world has risks, though. Even though Americans voluntarily put a lot of personal data on the internet, we still expect our private healthcare information to remain private. However, cybersecurity can sometimes feel tenuous. Can we trust the safeguards that have been put in place? Recently, cybersecurity company SolarWinds discovered it had been compromised by Russian hackers. The hackers managed to insert code into at least 250 of the 18,000 government and private networks that use SolarWinds software. This is concerning, to say the least.

But thanks to laws like HIPAA which guide the handling of patients’ health information, healthcare organizations are rigorous about privacy and security. A data breach would do more than ruin their reputations – it can leave patients open to identity theft and fraud, and potentially destroy the company itself. Healthcare organizations are strongly motivated to continuously improve their privacy and security protocols.

Nevertheless, patients who use telehealth, digital pharmacies, and even online patient portals need to educate themselves on cybersecurity. It’s important to know the basics: how to create strong passwords or passphrases, what HIPAA means for you, and how to identify medical identity theft. Let’s make healthcare cybersecurity a trend for 2021.

#3: Increased cost transparency

Speaking of patient education: the Transparency in Coverage rule has been finalized. This rule is meant to reduce surprise medical bills by requiring most insurance plans to disclose the prices for every service they cover and break down those prices by component and procedure. They will also need to disclose drug pricing information and help patients understand how much they will need to pay – be it their deductible, copayment, or coinsurance – for a given item or service.

This information will eventually be available on public websites, but plans won’t have this information available until next January at the earliest. The volume of information they need to disclose is so massive that they are permitted to roll it out in a staggered fashion.

Regardless, this ruling is a sign that cost transparency is important to patients. Already, online pharmacies and boutique telehealth providers often post the costs of medications and services up front. Sometimes, patients prefer to take on a low out-of-pocket cost than use their insurance, even though the out-of-pocket payments don’t contribute to their deductibles. Patients would rather pay a known, predictable amount than deal with an unexpected and seemingly-arbitrary bill.

#4: Social accountability

2020 forced many sectors of the healthcare industry to publicly acknowledge their lack of diversity and how that has negatively affected patients and medical research. An article from Provo College defines some of the disparities in healthcare and the repercussions on patients, but to put it simply, non-white people often receive poorer care and have a higher mortality rate as a result.

Patients will continue to expect more from their healthcare: a more diverse workforce; a greater understanding of the impact of racism, sexism, ageism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia on health outcomes; and unbiased care.

However, it won’t be enough to hire a Diversity & Inclusion officer and forget about it. Organizations need to follow through on their promises, measure their progress, and pursue change in an authentic way. Accountability is one trend that definitely needs to stick around.

No matter what the year throws at us, ScriptDrop is ready to rise to the occasion. Learn more about our solutions today.