COVID-19 and the restrictions that followed took many by surprise. Most people did not anticipate a global pandemic in their lifetimes. The worldwide economy, dependent on human-to-human contact and relationship building as much as actual transactions, instantly changed. With some pivoting and others being left behind, the response to the sea of change was not uniform throughout all industries.
Some sectors and businesses like healthcare and supermarkets struggled to catch up to demand. Other industries like travel, education, and restaurants faced challenges with keeping afloat in the wake of new public health orders.
Throughout the pandemic, organizations in most economic sectors had to adjust based on more than just government restrictions. Employees and consumers shifted their priorities. Technology became more of a catalyst for reaching people remotely.
As vaccines have made it possible to think about a new normal, technology remains a significant catalyst for post-pandemic innovation. Technology has supported the rapid recovery of three different industries in particular:
1. Remote Healthcare
Access to healthcare services became more challenging during the pandemic. Hospital emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, and medical offices had to handle an influx of COVID-19-infected patients. ICU rooms in some areas didn’t have the capacity to keep up. Handling individuals with COVID-19 infections and treating patients with other ailments put additional strains on the healthcare system.
Government restrictions also caused the postponement of routine care appointments. Including dental cleanings and annual wellness checkups. In-person visits suddenly became difficult, if not impossible, to get. Yet, people still needed healthcare services related to prescription medications, birth control, diagnostic tests, and counseling. Remote healthcare and telehealth services boomed as a result.
A survey by CBInsights found that 18% of doctors in the U.S. reported treating patients remotely in 2018. That figure rose to 48% during COVID-19. Out of necessity, people are now more open to receiving their healthcare virtually. Approximately 60% of U.S. consumers said they would now try telehealth services.
Consumer willingness, easing of government privacy regulations, and government agency trials related to virtual healthcare will boost the industry post-pandemic. Contract tracing apps, remote diagnostics, virtual counseling and support groups, and online fitness saw a rise during the pandemic. The shift toward using technology to deliver care for seniors will keep this demand. Remote medical services make it possible for aging adults to remain at home rather than rely on assisted-living centers.
According to a report by Grand View Research, telehealth services are estimated to grow at a rate of 22.4% in the next seven years. The industry’s market size is expected to be $298.9 billion by 2028. The drivers of this growth are expected to be advancements in technology, including remote health monitoring.
With social distancing and worries of contracting COVID-19 in public spaces, online shopping increased dramatically. Reduced operating hours, local supply shortages, and store closures were also responsible for the growth in e-commerce.
The uncertainty of the pandemic created panic buying of cleaning supplies, food, and essentials. Online grocery shopping and delivery services took off, and known online retailers like Amazon experienced surges in activity.
Other online shopping services such as curbside pickup saw increased demand as well. To keep up with orders, many traditional retailers started to further rely on technology. Automated fulfillment centers that used robotics could prepare and ship out packages quicker. Tech that leverages automation and robotics reduced physical proximity between employees. Plus, automation and virtual and augmented reality better served remote shoppers.
It is expected that the pandemic will accelerate the popularity of ordering groceries and other essentials online. While consumers will shift back to the brick-and-mortar experience for some products like furniture, others will remain virtual. E-commerce sales in the U.S. are projected to grow by 13.7%, closing in on $908.73 billion in 2021. By the end of 2022, e-commerce sales are expected to surpass $1 trillion, according to eMarketer.
For many organizations, cybersecurity was already an area of heightened focus and concern. Growing dependence on online tech combined with an increase in data breaches makes strict, evolving security protocols essential. The pandemic ushered in more remote work, virtual events, email and digital marketing, and consumers’ use of apps and websites.
All of this means a lot more data is going back and forth between systems and networks. Employees are accessing internal resources from home and VPN connections. Cloud-based services that involve partnerships with vendors can call for more monitoring and securing of sensitive information. Consumer privacy is an even more prevalent concern, largely due to escalations in scams, surveillance technology, and online exchanges.
Cyberattacks went up during COVID-19, as did phishing scams and fraudulent unemployment claims. Phony websites, texts, and emails requesting personal information tied to stimulus checks and COVID-19 vaccine waiting lists have been common.
Imposter scams where people claim to represent government agencies delivering pandemic relief have also targeted consumers. As long as cybercriminals can access data, including email addresses and phone numbers, scams will keep happening.
That may be why spending on cybersecurity by organizations went up to $11.4 billion in 2020, an increase of 50% from two years before. That spending isn’t going to slow down, especially as remote and hybrid work becomes integrated into the workplace. Companies will likely put money into technology related to cybersecurity, training, and security protocols. According to analysts, the global cybersecurity market will rise to $245 billion over the next few years.
4. Final Thoughts
The changes the world and the economy experienced during the pandemic posed challenges to people’s sense of security. Shifts in the way individuals accessed essential services and products would not have happened without technology.
Consumer behavior adjustments tied to healthcare, shopping, and work, first mandated by public health restrictions, are likely here to stay. Industries tied to tech, such as telehealth, e-commerce, and cybersecurity, stand to benefit the most during the post-pandemic recovery.