Successfully planning for what’s next starts with anticipating what lies ahead. Thankfully, emerging research by the PEW Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center helps to illuminate the possibilities of a more tech-driven future, as well as the challenges we’ll have to overcome as a result.

In the research, which asked around 915 innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists to consider what life might be like in 2025, many agreed that the relationship we have with technology today will only continue to deepen as we rely on digital connections in nearly every facet of our lives. Most experts referenced this expected new normal as a “tele-everything” world, where most of our engagement will be driven online through virtual experiences.

Given this increasing adoption of technology, there are several barriers that may come our way and will be particularly impactful in healthcare:

Spread of Misinformation

From the dangers of vaccines to the ins and outs of COVID-19, our world is no stranger to the rapid spread of misinformation. During the pandemic, social media was on fire as thousands of users set the internet ablaze with false information that only served to reinforce and give light to stigma and stereotypes many worked hard to keep at bay. With more users leveraging these platforms more than ever, it’s likely that this kind of manipulation of public perception will continue to be on the rise. 

What this means for healthcare: In our near future, many health brands may be put to task, assembling crews of experts and creating intentional educational opportunities that combat this spread of misinformation and get the truth into the hands of those in need.

Growing Concern for Privacy

As more people ventured online, so did hackers. Unexpected droves of traffic left websites and other online businesses exposed to cybersecurity challenges they had not previously been concerned about. This new heightened awareness of digital threats may lead to security solutions that reduce the privacy and civil liberties of individuals. 

What this means for healthcare: This could heavily influence the way people interact online and set new expectations for how healthcare brands plan to protect their users’ most sensitive information. 

Struggling Mental Health

Managing life digitally was already stressful for many. But the social isolation that ensued as a result of the pandemic may bring about new mental health concerns as we look toward a tele-everything world. Sticking to a virtual environment means many in-person experiences will be slow to return to how they once were, ultimately keeping people away from real-world support systems and face-to-face social engagements. 

What this means for healthcare: For patients and HCPs, the mental health burden they’ve already faced in struggling to get care and provide care for others during the pandemic is only likely to intensify. As brands look to new initiatives in the years ahead, we expect to see more stepping in to tackle this challenge head on with tools and resources that help mitigate the toll of isolation. 

Despite the challenges noted above, in our new world, 39% of participants felt like life post-COVID-19 will be mostly better for people than it was before the pandemic. One major source of hope and key opportunity for our industry is around the idea of smart technology. Given our experience with COVID-19, modernized apps and digital tools have been created to help us handle future crises and quickly respond to emerging threats. As we move forward, healthcare brands will likely continue the partnerships and services that emerged and brought these smarter tools to life. Continuing the efforts even after the pandemic will create new opportunity for how we support the world around us.

About the Author:

Khye Tucker is an Innovation Strategist in Columbus, OH. With a passion for writing and a background in communications, Khye strives to bring brand stories to life through a fresh perspective, innovative thinking and creative storytelling.