Health & Life Sciences: 2020 Predictions Vs Reality

    Kerry Consulting

    Has there ever been a time we are more conscious and more concerned with our health than now? This has put health and life sciences at the forefront of our considerations. From day-to-day medicines and personal hygiene, to ‘what if’ hospitalisation treatments and, of course, the holy grail vaccine.

    Naturally, Covid-19 has significantly impacted this sector. It could be a game of two halves, the short-term and the long-term.

    Short-term vs Long-term impacts on the Health & Life Sciences sector

    Short-term we have seen a change in demand and supply shortages due to an over-reliance on production centres such as China and India. There have been regulation changes and a shift to digital technology to facilitate remote interactions between the healthcare chain.

    Longer-term we are likely to see approval delays for non-Covid drugs resulting in much higher costs. Companies may move towards greater self-sufficiency in terms of the supply chain. They may opt for less reliance on key production centres, and instead prioritising end-market localisation. Less predictably, and despite the short-term spike in demand, there could be overall industry slow-down as certain portfolios, R&D efforts and other expansion activities are reigned in.

    Let’s take a look back. We predicted that consolidation and M&A in the pharmaceutical industry during 2019 had the potential to continue this year.

    Among the drivers of this activity was the desire to shed non-core assets and focus on specialty therapeutic areas. An example is the decoupling of the OTC Consumer Healthcare and traditional patent-based pharma businesses.

    However, with Covid-19, developing a vaccine seems to be the only silver bullet for total eradication. Hence, many pharma companies are joining hands, putting competition aside, and combining their research and scientific efforts. Corporate M&A will have to wait.

    Digital influence on the industry

    We also predicted that the health and life sciences sector would continue to weave a digital mindset into the business. To include big data and machine learning to make drug discovery and development more innovative, time-effective and cost-efficient. The current pandemic has only accelerated this adoption in many global organisations.

    The ‘race’ for a vaccine is on and any time gains leveraged from the use of data – especially as companies and academic institutes across the world share results – will be paramount to being first to market with an effective therapeutic. As the adoption of digital and analytics tools increases, pharma may have a greater need for talent that can program, operate, and interpret data from these new technologies. This will require significant up-skilling and capability-building efforts. Running against a background of remote working, more remote production, dispensation and treatment of patients – digital expertise will be required to deliver a seamless, patient-centric service.

    Whilst Covid-19 is all-encompassing for the health and life science sector, other challenges and priorities do not halt.

    Other megatrends impacting 2020

    Early in 2020 we expected the megatrend of an ageing and growing population would continue to fuel many of the patterns we’d seen in 2019. Other forces shaping the sector included the rising prevalence of chronic diseases; a growing demand for infrastructure investments; greater technological advancements; evolving care models; higher labour costs amid workforce shortages; and the expansion of health care systems in developing markets.

    As a result, organisations would be compelled to build healthcare systems that shift away from treatment, and instead focus on prevention and early intervention.

    Closer to home, the Singapore government continues to invest heavily into public healthcare. This is both from a capital infrastructure as well as patient behaviour perspectives. Three major shifts in the healthcare system are a move Beyond Healthcare to Health, Beyond Hospital to Community and Beyond Quality to Value. Covid-19 has certainly made us ever-more aware that our pre-conditions – age, health, obesity etc. can dramatically impact health outcomes.

    Hiring in healthcare is expected to rise exponentially, with major hiring in frontline medical staff. Corporate support functions will continue to be streamlined as the adoption of big data and automation encroaches upon the functions of operations and finance.


    Take a look at the 2020 Predictions vs Reality mini-series so far: