2020 In Memoriam, and What’s On the Horizon for Healthcare In 2021

[insert clever subtitle here about thank goodness it’s over, blah blah]

Ugh, ah me. Perfection is the enemy of consistency. Actually in this case...a procrastinating holiday shopper and a Christmas Eve dinner that wasn't going to cook itself, was the enemy this time. Apologies for being a couple days late. Any ways…

A lot happened this year and none of you need me to remind you of that. Each and every one of us was affected in many ways. A global pandemic, a civil movement, Brexit, new President elect, tumbling stock prices, devastating wildfires, millions of small business closures, hundreds of thousands of unemployment layoffs, overrun hospitals...what else? Oh yeah… 


But in it all, there are a few silver linings. Us here at Sexy Healthcare are marveling at the incredible accelerated innovation (and change) that met the healthcare and wellness industries. Not that it was even out of want, but of necessity. And this industry, along with everything happening in wellness, is RIPE for innovation and disruption. Let’s examine:

The world went fully digital...we learned how to work, meet people, and socialize in a completely new manner. Though, this isolation of sorts, among other happenings, was detrimental to mental health. Thus mental health became a huge focus on 2020, garnering over $588mil in funding in the first half of 2020 alone.

The fitness industry goes indoors and at home. While brick and mortar fitness businesses were hit hard, anyone in the digital fitness space saw their heyday. Apple+ fitness launched, Peloton acquired multiple businesses, and funding flocked to this market as well. I bet you took a virtual fitness class…

Everyone’s eyes were on healthcare. From personal refocusing to health and wellness, to the FDA introducing the new Digital Center of Excellence to provide a quicker review and approval process of new health technologies (where in the past this process was even more tumultuous), there were numerous more innovations which will carry over into next year…

So since 2021 is right around the corner, ‘tis the season for New Year predictions! Trends reports and opinions of markets, industries and concepts that will ‘make it big’ next year are legit everywherrrreeee. From dieticians predictions of the top healthy food trends to psychic predictions of what next year’s travel will look like ( that’s totally cheating because wouldn’t they already know if they were psychic?...anyway...) everyone has their opinion of the next big thing. And if you think we’re going to be just like EVERYONE else out there and create just one other trend prediction list …

Well, actually you’re right this time. That’s exactly what we’re going to do. Hooray! BUT this one will be different. And fun. Duh. Here we’re going to chat some of our thoughts on healthcare ideas that will make it big next year, that matter to YOU the consumer, based not just on prediction but on business intelligence, trend analysis AND investor activity (Yes yes follow the money). Oh right...and actually working in this industry :) 

And another thing, as healthcare learned a lot from 2020, 2021 will be a heavy ‘responding year’ meaning sometimes the ‘predictive’ nature is not as helpful (sorry magic ball) as simply observing what happened, learning and PRESCRIBING change. 

So without further ado, I present to you our top 7, 2021 consumer healthcare predictions!

1 - You’re going to focus more on your health and wellness than anything. COVID made many people realize that they perhaps were more susceptible to contraction simply based on lifestyle activities. This, along with us being locked indoor with not much else to do, gave rise to ‘consumer interest and empowerment’ over health information and data. 57% of you in this study vowed wellness will be your top focus. While at home I definitely learned more bodyweight exercises, took to trying more things as I needed to fill my hours, and the number of new healthy recipes I learned was ridiculous.

2 - You’re going to be able to get your data from more places, easier. Painted picture…how difficult is it for your primary care doc to transfer your history to your cardiovascular specialist, to transfer your history to your endocrinologist and lord forbid a new hospital to generate your records in light of an emergency. Well as 2020 showed spikes in telehealth and hospital visits, they recognized that data interoperability was something that needed to be improved. “People are interacting with a variety of healthcare organizations, including primary care physicians, specialists, pharmacies and drive-through testing facilities. When their healthcare data doesn’t follow them to each provider, there can be delays in care or redundant services rendered.” - Forbes. Data sharing across provider parties took a huge leap forward, and as there is still MUCH to overcome, this is going to get a lot of focus next year as sharing data across parties becomes a necessity. The new relief bill even includes a pretty penny ($62mil to be exact) to advance data interoperability (if it gets passed).

3 - Your care will involve more D2C apps. This one is near and dear to my heart as I spend most of my working time (and am a huge fan of) a digital health SaaS that also has a D2C app, Heads Up Health. But seeming as every second a new app that does something for your health and wellness pops up from every company imaginable. This year, Kaiser Permenate began experimenting with actually prescribing these apps in their care, starting with mental health focused apps. As the studies show that adherence to the prescribed app increased with a doctor recommendation, I can see many more providers beginning to adopt this in their care model, especially those involved in behavior change (all of them). Is there an app for THAT?

4 - You’ll get to know your doctor even more, via video, and the experience will be better. Just like last edition of Sexy Healthcare when we talked all about telemedicine, next year we will see a continued increased use of this platform of care. Now I don’t think it will be to the levels it was this year…I think next year will normalize, still with an increased usage, but more in hybrid with in-office visits. Think of 2020 as a test drive for new infrastructures of telehealth. 2021 will be when the training wheels really come off, and your experience is enhanced with greater data sharing, more tools for monitoring you remotely and a LOT better of patient experience through the whole ordeal. I’ll be even more convenient and easier to access due to increase coverage by health plans and loosened regulations.

5 - You’re the consumer. You’ll talk…they’ll listen. One big area we’re moving towards that is only now garnering steam and will see more of this until the entire health system is this way…healthcare consumerism and patient centricity. This is what our newsletter is based on. Consumers (us) being the center of the healthcare infrastructure. Hospitals , other health providers and even health plans will pour so much funding and attention into patient experience, and their end to end interaction with their are team. As the system works to give consumers more control over their data, more say in their are model, more empowerment over their care team decisions and the administration system that built to serve them, we’ll see so many innovations that improve this process. The HealthPopuli blog sites the top experiences we want to see bettered are: telemedicine, communication, check in, scheduling and payments.

6 - Next year’s health info lives on your wrist and in your pocket. This one also lives close to my heart because, 1) I’m a huge fan of biohacking and wearable technology and 2) we eat sleep and breathe this stuff daily in my work. When hospitals were full and people with non threatening issues needed to be monitored closely from home, health providers had to quickly adopt both hardware, software, and the infrastructure to support remote patient monitoring (basically keeping an eye on vital signs like blood pressure and pulse oxygen from a location other than there that patient is). This technology is NOT going away next year. In fact we’re going to see this even further embedded into our lives. Especially since the consumer wearables are beginning to play a large part in both monitoring and individual empowerment of health metrics. Consumer wearables…think Oura Ring, Amazon Halo, Apple Watch, etc. (for SURE more on this in upcoming newsletters). A great mind in healthcare communication Gil Bashe, write this as one of his predictions too, stating, “Instead, digital systems built as part of beds, furniture and convenient medical wearables make hospitals stays more customer-friendly and deliver patient information straight to providers’ smart phones and central monitoring stations.”

7 - Big tech wins every time. Ever heard of FAMGA? Facebook. Amazon. Microsoft. Google. Apple. Well, they’re encroaching on healthcare. Money follows opportunity, and each of the big tech boys have started playing in healthcare’s sandbox in their own way. Despite them being flushed with cash, their innumerable resources make them easy to adapt, innovate, and introduce change, which can be both bad and good. But even as startups in digital health saw the most funding in 2020 ever, the rate of health company acquisition from big teach was also off the charts. They will be focusing on a strong M&A and consolidation strategy for 2021, as well as bringing new health products into the market and making plays in insurance, primary care and wearable technology.

Honorable mention - New options for healthcare and wellness through your employer. Why is this honorable mention? Well because I think it will happen, I just don’t think it will happen effectively. I have a love/hate relationship with corporate wellness plans for many reasons. I do see the value here (lower healthcare costs, more engaged employees, to show employees you care, yada yada) and while there are tons of players in this space that do this, there are not too many who do it WELL. It will be up to those who can figure out how to facilitate new wellness programs that keep you engaged while most people are working from home, and actually focus on the things that you NEED most. (god please not another in-office challenge for a gift card). But we will see more offerings that are more holistic, meaning including financial wellness, and a huge focus on mental health. 

That’s all folks! 2020 sure was one hell of a ride, but for better or worse, it opened up a slew of opportunities and catalyzed healthcare innovation YEARS ahead of its time in a few short months. I’m hopeful that these new opportunities will bring about change for the better. 

Happy Holidays friends!

Have any thoughts or suggestions about this or any past newsletter? Want a topic covered or question answered? Or shoot, even if you want to CORRECT me! Comment below or hit ‘reply’ directly to the newsletter! And as always, if this is helpful or just something you feel people would generally enjoy (yay) please share!


Also, I’m experimenting with Twitter. Let’s give each other a shoutout! Tweet me your biggest predictions for healthcare in 2021! @nikkicohnbyrd

(remember, this in no way serves as medical, financial or legal advice)

To making healthcare sexy again,


LI - Nikki Cohn-Byrd

IG - @nikkicohnbyrdhealth

Twitter - @nikkicohnbyrd

Website - www.nikkicohnbyrd.com