This article originally appeared in PharmaTimes Magazine.

The once-secluded healthcare industry has arguably enjoyed more limelight in the last two years than it has in the preceding 50, as the sector takes center stage in terms of demand and innovation. One example of this is highlighted in recent reports revealing how telehealth use has increased 38-fold from pre-COVID times, while venture funding for the sector has tripled.

You‘re probably thinking, ‘big numbers, so what?’

Well, a great many things – virtual reality in the operating room, 3D printing drugs, patients on advisory boards and upward valuations of healthtech (six times the growth in Europe alone from $8bn to $41bn).

I applaud the broad healthcare industry leaders and practitioners for their resilience in the last two years – tackling new perspectives, deciding on what will be transient vs. sustained and the critical role of brand purpose in expediting the often-arduous decision-making process. Even now, with the accelerated progression in this traditionally measured industry, these leaders are looking to get ahead of the trends, understand what they mean for the industry, pre-empt the next big thing and build better towards it. Taking cue from Albert Einstein’s book about understanding the future by looking to the past, here’s what we can expect to see from the healthcare industry and what pandemic living meant for healthcare leaders.


Brands that lead with purpose are set for the long game. Although the pandemic highlighted renewed relevance for healthcare brands across the ecosystem, it also revealed the problems of short-termism and its associated unsustainable business strategies. The latter, especially, contributed to the strain on the existing healthcare system we all experienced.

For some businesses, however, this posed an opportunity to lead with a genuine purpose to drive decision-making and communicate positive impact to customers strategically. Brands like Daiichi Sankyo remained uncompromised when it came, not only building collaborations to develop cancer treatments, but also in intensifying efforts to launch an indigenous COVID booster in Japan. Pandemic or not.

There is a pathway to metahealth in the metaverse. Although 5G has not been rolled out widely enough for the metaverse to really exist yet, the 2020’s boom in healthcare digital transformation facilitated opportunities for increased efficiency and innovation. On this note, Saudi German Health has already introduced enterprise mobility and precision-based robotic surgery.

With telemedicine now widely activated, we can see the desire for this type of treatment to continue with both patients and healthcare professionals. Organizations are rallying to meet this demand. With this approach, we might not have a full technical overhaul of how the healthcare industry works but as the need for it grows, we can expect a more personalized delivery of medicine and possibly AI mimical ‘physical presence’ (a limitation of telehealth) with the metaverse.

Cultural shift

Leading with the heart becomes the beat of company culture. According to Boots, ‘what the world needs now is love, sweet love.’ With many families and individuals deprived of vital human contact during the crisis, Boots’ #PrescribeKindness campaign was a much-needed drive that emphasized the critical importance of empathy and a softer human-centric approach.

Speaking to the hashtag, Chief Marketing Officer Pete Markey thought it “… felt like just where we wanted to go.” Fortunately, the global sentiments today around kindness have stuck and, in turn, expectations in healthcare services have shifted. While medical and scientific expertise is as important as ever, so is the need for compassion.

The future of individualized patient care is upon us. With increasing digital adoption, a proliferation of single healthcare ecosystems and shifting consumer expectations, patients now receive care based on what matters to them and their individual needs.

Projects like ‘Medical Home’ by Piedmont Healthcare empower patients and their families to take charge of their own healthcare. For the non-profit’s CMO, Douwe Bergsma, healthcare has become more integrated. He said: “We’re expanding the communities in Georgia that we serve as well as growing technology that allows us to serve regardless of footprint.”

As more brands adapt to this changing landscape, consumers and patients can now look to a future of personalised experience points in the healthcare ecosystem.

Altogether now

Expect more disruptions that challenge the status quo and collaborations that scale them. Healthcare competitive sets are expanding fast and out-of-sector challengers are being introduced on a regular basis. Existing brands are thinking beyond immediate competitors to a future of greater partnerships in both volume and variety to stay ahead.

As with Pfizer’s global collaboration agreement with BioNTech to develop the first mRNA-based shingles vaccine, Senior Launch Navigator VP for Pfizer, Deborah Scarano states: “We will learn from what we’ve done with the vaccine, to be able to do that with other life-saving or critical medicines.” It’s not impossible to expect more of these types of collaborations across the industry in the near future. In fact, this will become the norm to stay ahead of the game. Together.

Tackling the COVID-19 virus accelerated interesting developments and advancements across various sectors. With the world united under one purpose – to save lives – the healthcare industry was no different.

Brands became nimbler, shaving off bureaucratic red tape, building collaborations, optimizing funding and offering more personalised service delivery. Advancements in technology facilitated these changes and will continue to do so in the future. And like other industries, healthcare will see more disruption in the industry, including from stakeholders traditionally outside the sector.

While we cannot wait for another black swan event to get our act together, brands and governments – irrespective of sector or borders – must think beyond politicization and personal interests to tackle the brand challenges of our times: keeping momentum, addressing customer needs, incorporating technology and, ultimately, improving humankind.


Patrick Kampff is Strategy Director