A key global survey has revealed that 74% of healthcare leaders see AI as a crucial area for future investment, while 64% of global healthcare leaders are investing in telehealth today.

Philips’ Future Health Index 2021, ‘A Resilient Future: Healthcare leaders look beyond the crisis’, the largest survey of its kind, analyzed almost 3000 healthcare leaders in 14 countries, providing critical insights on meeting the demands of today and their vision for healthcare three years from now.

Feedback from healthcare leaders – including executive officers, financial officers, technology and information officers and operating officers– explores the challenges they have faced since the onset of the pandemic, and where their current and future priorities lie, revealing a new vision for the future of healthcare.

With a focus on patient-centred healthcare enabled by smart technology, their vision is shaped by a fresh emphasis on partnerships, sustainability and new models of care delivery, both inside and outside the hospital.

While still grappling with the pandemic, 64% of healthcare leaders around the world continue to prioritize telehealth when it comes to digital health technology investments. This number is particularly high in the U.S. (89%). However, in the next three years, only 40% expect to invest heavily in telehealth and AI emerges as a key area for investment (36% today, 74% in three years). Healthcare leaders in emerging economies like Saudi Arabia (98%), India (94%) and Russia (85%) plan to prioritize investments in AI the most in 2024, even more than those in the U.S. (80%).

Roughly one third (36%) of European healthcare leaders and one quarter (27%) of those in APAC agree that, to be prepared for the future, their hospital or healthcare facility most needs to invest in implementing predictive technologies like AI and machine learning. Notably, in technologically advanced Singapore, the numbers are higher, with nearly two thirds (62%) of healthcare leaders prioritizing an investment in AI post-pandemic. And while lower, Europe and APAC are still above the averages for the Americas (12%) and the Middle East & Africa (6%) when it comes to prioritizing AI in 2024.

The report also highlights a groundbreaking push toward sustainability. Implementing environmental sustainability practices rises from the bottom of leaders’ priority list (4%) to the top (58%) in three years’ time, with those in France (86%) and the Netherlands (81%) leading the wayThe trend is more pronounced among leaders who work in technologically advanced (smart) hospitals or practices (71%) and those in developed markets (65%).

The report’s other key trends in healthcare leaders’ current and post-COVID outlook, include:

  • After a year of crisis, healthcare leaders remain optimistic about the future. The vast majority (86%) think their hospital showed resilience during the pandemic and feel confident in the future (75%).
  • While leaders rank preparing to respond to crises as their top priority today – with 69% choosing this option – the figure falls to just 3% in three years’ time, indicating healthcare leaders expect to shift their focus away from crisis preparedness.
  • Current plans for value-based care have been hit by COVID-19 in many countries, with 33% of healthcare leaders in Brazil and 25% in the U.S. saying they have deprioritized this area because of the pandemic. However, overall the picture remains positive: 50% of all leaders are either practicing value-based care currently, or plan to in the future.

“The Future Health Index 2021 report reflects pockets of positivity amid the COVID-19 crisis,” said Jan Kimpen, Philips’ Chief Medical Officer. “Healthcare leaders have seen first-hand how digital health technology can ensure the continued delivery of care in incredibly difficult circumstances. Many are now reassessing their technology capabilities as they consider what’s next. While we can’t be sure what the next few years hold, what shines forth from this report is that healthcare leaders are committed to building healthcare systems that are sustainable, adaptable and – above all – resilient.”

The full report can be read here