As the ball dropped in Times Square and confetti rained down on a different celebration than usual, most people breathed a sigh of relief.

2020 was in the past.

Obviously, that does not mean COVID and everything it brought with it disappeared overnight. The medical industry knows best that, even with a vaccine being distributed, it will be a while before a sense of normalcy returns. Still, a new year brings new trends. As the spotlight continues to shine on healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices, let’s take a look at what 2021 has in store for organizations like yours.

Early 2021

A New Era for Health

On a positive note, although the pandemic forced nearly every American to consider their mortality, people’s perspectives of healthcare have evolved. They’re taking their health more seriously. This will manifest in the earliest trend of 2021 that will see people resume regular preventative visits and be more diligent about taking care of themselves. They’ll ask more questions about procedures, their insurance, how medical devices work, and drug side effects. In short, they’ll be more engaged than ever.

Importantly, health equity is finally getting the conversation it deserves. Minorities have long been disproportionately affected by illness due to structural inequality in this country. As the fight against racism renewed in 2020, it helps ignite the fight to provide equal healthcare for all groups in 2021 and beyond.

Mental Health Takes Priority

Before last year, it was slowly getting easier to discuss mental health. Suicides, cases of PTSD in veterans, and drug/alcohol abuse have been issues for decades, but 2020 cast everything in a new light. As the pandemic isolated people and took them out of their routines, the mental health of millions was in jeopardy. In fact, 32% of Americans experienced anxiety or depression as a result of COVID-19.

It’s a dangerous situation, but it starkly highlighted the need to address mental health like never before. The pandemic was the catalyst needed to put this issue in the mainstream permanently, and it will be a factor for the entirety of 2021. In particular, healthcare providers and the pharmaceutical industry will be looking to better address mental health in treatments, awareness, and other areas.

Mid 2021

Procedures and Hiring Increase

With vaccines being rolled out by the millions in the first half of the year, the middle of 2021 will see a distinct increase in the elective and non-urgent procedures that were delayed in 2020. At the same time, research and development in pharmaceuticals and medical devices will also spike as social distancing restrictions in labs and manufacturing facilities subside. Of course, that will require more people in a medical industry that is historically understaffed.

It’s expected that the number of healthcare roles will grow by 15% this year and 2.4 million jobs will be added by 2029, which are higher numbers than most industries. As a result, the sector’s unemployment rate will go down, making it harder to recruit the people an organization like yours needs. While many jobs will be in demand, the BLS predicts these five roles will be the biggest of the year (along with BLS salary expectations for each):

  • Nurse Practitioner: $111,840
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant: $61,880
  • Physical Therapist Assistant: $58,790
  • Medical and Health Service Managers: $115,160
  • Medical Assistants: $35,720

Telehealth Maintains Some Popularity

Just as other industries suddenly found themselves in a remote work experiment last year, the medical industry had little choice but to rely on telehealth at an unprecedented level. The results were mixed as both doctors and patients discovered whether their computers, programs, and internet could handle telehealth activities. It also raised security questions and simply felt awkward for some people.

However, telehealth got the job done when the industry needed it most. By the middle of 2021, there will be clear signs about how prevalent telehealth will be for the foreseeable future. Even as it becomes safer to conduct in-person visits, the number of patients embracing telehealth will remain higher than ever before. After all, in 2016 only 56% of U.S. employers covered telehealth visits in their insurance plans. Now, it’s 96%. Plus, digitalization isn’t just for primary care doctors to think about – 98% of pharmaceutical executives expect to invest in virtual clinical trials during 2021.

Late 2021

Medical Industry Legislation

Politicians have debated healthcare reform for years, but with a new administration in office along with a potentially unified Senate and House, there is the potential for faster and bigger healthcare changes in America. For example, the Affordable Care Act is likely no longer in danger of being repealed, but will it be expanded in some way? And what will that mean for organizations in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices?

It’s difficult to know what actual reform will look like at this time, but by the end of 2021 the picture will be clearer. There will be new legislation drawn up and discussed. As immediate COVID response becomes less necessary, the focus will turn to healthcare reform. By all accounts, it will be the biggest story by December 2021.

Medical Device Quality

On a similar note, the European Union has new regulations on medical devices taking effect in May of 2021. Experts predict this trend to come stateside, so expect increased scrutiny of medical device quality in the U.S. as the year goes on. With recalls on the rise, any medical industry legislation is likely to include tighter controls on manufacturing in this area. While that can lead to safer and better devices, it will require skilled talent and add steps to the R&D and testing process.

2021 Medical Industry Trends

Nobody can predict the future, but we do know that 2021 will look much different than 2020. It’s going to be a healthier, more positive year, and it’ll be a strong one for the entire healthcare industry. After all, just as a company can’t operate without healthy employees, America can’t function without healthy citizens. It’s going to be a busy year and there will be surprises, but for organizations specializing in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices, it will be a good one.

Trust ATR with your hiring for healthcare, pharmaceutical, and medical device roles. Contact us today.


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