Healthcare in 2021: trends, challenges and opportunities

COVID-19 has put the spotlight on healthcare – but where are the opportunities for leaders today? Alyona Segline, Head of Diversified Sectors, Career Centre

9901_TNWW Illustrations v3__2_Healthcare in 2021_1140x396

It will come as little surprise to learn that the healthcare sector experienced considerable growth in 2020 – with innovation once again remaining the name of the game. COVID-19 forced a shift in operations and behaviour, from the flexible design and construction of greenfield facilities designed to enable faster re-use of beds to the separation of ancillary functions, such as imaging and lab tests, from core hospital operations. Healthcare companies have had to pivot as a result – but the outlook is positive: in 2020, there was an unprecedented 80% year-on-year recruitment increase from July to September. 

From a technological or healthtech standpoint, technologies like AI-based diagnostics, cloud-based storage of medical records, and integration of information across the care continuum are paramount. Digital tools are being used to facilitate remote communication between providers and patients, and will continue to be improved, in conjunction with point-of-care devices and home-based monitoring devices. Additionally, real-time data will create effective use of supplies and allow staff to work more efficiently. 

Linked to this is telehealth, which continues to gain momentum. Going forward, patients may want the ability to access end-to-end delivery of care, including home delivery of medications. The ability to build trust in the new care setting is critical to sustaining the continued use of home-based services. New incentives and capability building to sustain the new operating model will be needed. 

“Healthcare companies are creating stronger patient experiences tailored to an individual's needs; they thus require experts with the ability to analyse and utilise data”

From a regulatory standpoint, changes to healthcare worker licensing and to the e-prescribing and delivery of medications continue to gather pace. Given the disruption of clinical trials around the world, the demand for real-world evidence looks set to grow, and regulators may need to develop new frameworks, especially as more service activities shift from hospitals to out-of-hospital care settings. 


Which trends should job-seekers be aware of?

Aside from traditional healthcare roles (think doctors, nurses and hospital managers), there’s an increased demand for business and data skills in the growing healthcare sector, with more businesses seeking business analysts, research managers, business intelligence leads, healthcare consultants and finance analysts. This is for a multitude of reasons, including the fact that healthcare companies are creating stronger patient experiences tailored to an individual's needs and shifting from offering blanket therapies to providing universal personalised medicines. They thus require experts with the ability to analyse and utilise data effectively, and drive transformation through its strategic integration. 

To combat long-term health threats and find better solutions faster, healthcare companies are shifting from being monopolies of knowledge and discovery to creating collaborative networks of innovation, and are looking for partnerships with smaller, more agile and tech-friendly providers. 

“Healthcare companies are shifting from being monopolies of knowledge to creating collaborative networks of innovation”

Part of this links to the increased focus on data analytics: the pandemic has highlighted the fact that data is critical to making decisions quickly. Analytics tied into key data metrics can drive efficiency in healthcare to solve future healthcare crises: we now know that to determine the need for hospital supplies, like masks, gowns and even ventilators, data metrics are critical. Additionally, to accelerate drug development, real-world data use can help expand the exploration of ways to use drugs in novel therapeutic indications and conditions. Tools like these can help strike a balance between efficiency and quality of care.  

Innovation remains paramount in the need for novel therapeutics and several initiatives have accelerated innovation via public-private partnerships. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, has created funding initiatives for COVID-19 to drive research focused on private and public partnerships to find new treatments. As the world requires new novel therapeutics for significant health challenges, this pattern of innovation will continue to grow. 

4 skills in demand in healthcare today 


  1. Critical thinking and analytical mindsets have always been in demand across the commercial functions in healthcare – but strategic financial planning will help candidates stand out from the competition.
  2. A technical background has become more essential than ever as more companies in healthcare and beyond move away from generic structured programmes in favour of tailored in-function placements or direct hires so candidates can make an impact from their first day in post.
  3. With the increasing digitialisation of the sector, knowledge of CRM databases and the ability to translate data into insights will prove crucial.
  4. When growth targets are stretched and budgets are significantly reduced, a creative and innovative approach to business becomes more important than ever. In fact, some of the hardest hit sectors and businesses may also be the most interesting ones to get involved with; they’ll be depending on life-line strategic innovation and creative solutions to safe-guard themselves from future shocks. 



LinkedIn, Hiring trends by industry, UK data July-Sept 2020 

Business Insider, 21 high-paying careers for people who want to save the planet — and also have job security – 14 August 2019 

Forbes Business Council - Healthcare, July 2020 

McKinsey & Co: Healthcare Providers: Preparing for the next normal after COVID-19, May 2020