This blog post was contributed by CodeScience Healthcare & Life Sciences Industry Lead, Melissa Laake.

As healthcare organizations navigate the ongoing digital transformation of the industry, the landscape of evolving regulations, shifting demographics, and growing consumer demands continues to be galvanized by the COVID-19 pandemic. In late 2020, we explored several of these topics in our webinar, Health Cloud: Digital Transformation Driving Time to Value. Here, we take a look forward at some of the trends that will affect the healthcare landscape in 2021.

Of course nothing magically changes when the calendar turns over to a new year, so most of the challenges and themes of 2020 will continue — clearly COVID is still very much with us — but we also foresee some new developments that will impact the healthcare industry this year. 

In part one of this two-part blog post, we’ll take a look at evolving tech needs around COVID and the movement toward interoperability accelerated by the 21st Century Cures Act. In part two, we’ll focus on how the success of telehealth is driving the further consumerization of healthcare, and the shift in senior care to home-based care.

We’ll also explore what each of these trends mean for healthcare solution providers. In a nutshell, the transformation of the industry means opportunities are everywhere. Wherever there is a need for better coordination, increased resiliency, improved communication, or a higher level of service — along with the need to achieve these goals at a lower cost — there is an opportunity to provide the technology that enables that necessary change and growth for the industry. Yet only those organizations that can move quickly and decisively will be able to take advantage of these opportunities. At CodeScience, we believe the fastest and most secure way to do this is to build on Salesforce, and we can help you get there.

COVID Continues to Drive Transformation

As we enter our second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it continues to affect every industry, but none more than healthcare. Pervasive uncertainty and accelerated change remain constants, and with them the continued, urgent drive for digital transformation in the healthcare industry. 

The ultimate compelling event, the pandemic caught much of the healthcare industry on its heels in 2020. Those who had previously taken a cautious, “wait and see” approach to digital transformation were forced by the pandemic into more rapid evolution than they may have thought possible, just to survive. Meanwhile, companies who were already taking steps toward transformation were able to adapt more quickly and jump even further ahead of their competition. We explore this “surve, adapt, thrive” phenomenon, including a deep dive into what separates the companies that are thriving during the pandemic from the rest, in our latest State of the AppExchange Partners Report, The Great Separation: Examining the Ecosystem in a Time of Change.

While the focus now shifts from testing to vaccinating, the technology needs and trends remain the same to enable increasingly complex program orchestration under ever more urgent timelines. Salesforce continues to invest heavily in Health Cloud, and has already introduced Vaccine Cloud earlier this year specifically to help organizations design, build, and scale vaccine programs; clearly the healthcare space is a major priority. Healthcare solution providers can take advantage of these investments and innovations, along with relevant, existing capabilities of the platform in general, to more quickly meet urgent industry needs.

Looking forward, there are still major challenges to be met and opportunities to be seized, for example, tracking who has received the vaccination and establishing a vaccination “passport” to enable the re-opening of global travel and other elements of life that have been interrupted by the pandemic.

Regulation: Cures Act Compliance Deadline

In late 2020, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) announced it was extending the deadline for compliance with the health data and IT system provisions that had been set forth in March, 2020 through the 21st Century Cures Act. This was the second extension, and with the new deadline of April 2021 rapidly approaching, compliance is an increasingly pressing issue.

The goal of the Cures Act is to achieve full interoperability and transparency between all healthcare IT systems; it requires that electronic patient data be made available to patients at no cost, and prohibits the blocking of any patient health information by any healthcare IT system. These requirements are intended to enable seamless, secure access to and exchange of health information to patients and their providers. While some solution providers are counting on yet another extension and continue to kick the compliance can down the road, proactive businesses are leading the charge toward interoperability. 

These forward-looking companies recognize that interoperability is not only a mandate, it will create a safer, more adaptable and resilient healthcare system for everyone. In addition to improving quality and continuity of care by making it easier for patients to securely access their own health information, interoperability can minimize risk for providers by reducing clinical errors caused by the lack of unified patient records, which in turn can lower costs for payers. Ultimately, it can also enable a modern ecosystem of healthcare apps that provide all parties with more options, innovation, and choice. We’ll explore this further in part two of this blog, where we’ll take a look at the consumerization of healthcare.

Building on Salesforce can give healthcare solution providers who wish to enable interoperability, transparency, and improved access to health information a massive head start along with a competitive advantage over companies who choose to “go it alone.” Salesforce aims to be a key part of the movement toward interoperability, and has the built-in security, integration capabilities, and data models necessary to make it possible. CodeScience can help healthcare organizations take full advantage of these innovations while reducing costs and speeding time to market — you can read a couple of our success stories here.

Stay tuned for part two of our Healthcare Outlook for 2021, where we’ll cover shifting trends and developments around telehealth, the consumerization of healthcare, and senior care, along with a closer look at how building or re-platforming on Salesforce can allow healthcare solution providers to seize the opportunities of today’s dynamic healthcare landscape.