Global Consumer Healthcare Trends

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Global Consumer Healthcare Trends


The healthcare industry is constantly evolving to reflect the changing trends of society. Complementary and alternative medicines, treatment with cannabis-based products, and the rise in patient autonomy are three growing trends currently influencing the provision of healthcare services. Globally, each of these presents both challenges and opportunities to the healthcare sector.


  • Complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) is that which does not form a part of "conventional medicine".
  • It can be divided into five key areas. These areas are energy therapies, mind-body interventions, manipulative and body-based therapies, alternative medical systems, and biologically-based treatments.
  • Australia provides a good example of the changing consumer trend, with 42% of Australians adopting CAM treatment options. This trend is reflected globally.
  • The rationale behind this consumer shift is largely unknown, but it is likely growing suspicion toward "Big Pharma" has played a part. A German Study in 2018 identified distrust of pharmaceutical companies as a factor in this trend.
  • The societal trend toward individualism has seen consumers less willing to accept the traditional role of doctors. In empowering themselves, consumers have sought out alternatives to conventional medicine.
  • Increased migration from countries where CAM treatments have always played a role in healthcare has also contributed to the increase in popularity. Examples of this include the increased use of traditional Chinese medicines and Ayurvedic Medicine.
  • This growing trend has meant that globally countries, need to re-consider how they fund healthcare. Historically the refusal to accept CAM as a legitimate treatment option has seen CAM providers' ability to access state funding streams limited.
  • This is slowly changing. In a number of countries, certain CAM treatment options are now funded by the state or insurance providers.
  • In the US the National Institute of Health has established the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. It has a budget of over $100 million.
  • A number of CAM options lack empirical evidence around the efficacy of the treatments. To advance the case for further mainstream acceptance, this is something that needs to be addressed.
  • It is likely more of the research budget for medical treatment options will be used to research CAM treatment options. This is essential if CAM is to continue to evolve.
  • This trend demands doctors change their conventional views on healthcare. Consumers are demanding that they integrate CAM into treatment plans. As a result, there is a need for traditional healthcare providers to improve their understanding of CAM as a treatment option.
  • CAM approaches to medicine have become part of the curriculum at a number of medical schools worldwide illustrating these approaches are slowly becoming accepted by mainstream medical professionals.


  • The medicinal use of cannabis-based products involves taking cannabinoids from the cannabis plant to treat a range of medical conditions. Synthetic cannabis options have also been developed to mimic this effect.
  • Negativity around the psychoactive features of cannabis and its use in recreational settings had seen cannabis placed on the restricted or prohibited list of drugs in a number of countries worldwide.
  • Recent legislative changes in many countries have seen a global trend toward incorporating cannabis treatment options into patient management.
  • Canada has legalized cannabis, as have 10 states in the US. 33 other US states, the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, and several other countries have eased restrictions around using cannabis for medicinal purposes.
  • New Zealand and Australia are currently reviewing their legislation around the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, as are a number of other countries.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that cannabis be rescheduled internationally due to growing evidence around its medicinal applications.
  • The historic restrictions on cannabis have meant research and development of treatment options in this area was difficult, if not impossible in many countries. It is expected that the global trend toward easing these restrictions will see significant portions of the research dollar being allocated to research around this treatment option.
  • As the trend toward lifting the legislative restrictions around cannabis evolves and more research is undertaken, the number and type of conditions that can be treated with cannabis will increase. This will provide a number of opportunities in the healthcare industry in relation to the supply, manufacture, and distribution of these new therapeutic interventions.
  • The social stigma around cannabis use is slowly dissipating, and it is starting to become more accepted in mainstream medicine. Several medical institutions globally have incorporated learning around this treatment into their curriculum.
  • Medical conferences are now incorporating cannabis treatment discussions into their programs. There is a growing trend by healthcare professionals to increase their understanding of the medicinal uses of cannabis.
  • Best practice guidelines around cannabis treatment options are being developed in several countries.


  • Patient autonomy is one of the primary principles of medicine. The principle sees patients enabled and encouraged to make their own decisions regarding healthcare interventions.
  • Society is becoming more individualistic by nature. This has seen a trend towards patient autonomy and the demand for more individually tailored treatment options in the healthcare setting.
  • Doctors have traditionally adopted a paternalistic approach to patients. The rise of patient autonomy has seen a change in the nature of the relationship between patients and doctors and a more equal distribution of power.
  • There is an ongoing need for healthcare providers to recognize and consider patient autonomy in decisions around patient care. The education around patient autonomy provided to healthcare providers around the evolution of patient autonomy varies immensely.
  • The education provided to healthcare providers needs to be developed and continue to evolve to reflect the changing demands and attitudes of society.
  • Patient empowerment has had some valuable effects. Patients provide the physician with valuable insight into management and treatment plans, which can ultimately improve the health outcomes for the patient.
  • It also protects patients from having unwanted treatments or interventions forced upon them.
  • There are also negative aspects to patient autonomy. These include increased time being required to discuss established treatment options with poorly informed patients and the associated increase in financial costs.
  • Many institutions are required to institute standardized management options in respect of certain patients to enable the efficient completion of patient care tasks. Increased patient autonomy can make this hard.
  • This creates problems in an already overburdened healthcare system.
  • There are potential conflict points around patient autonomy when the rights of an individual have implications for society as a whole. The growing number of individuals electing not to vaccinate is a good example of this.
  • Difficulties have arisen in respect of the weight patient autonomy should be given in the doctor-patient relationship.
  • This has created a point of conflict between doctors and their patients.
  • Healthcare systems cater to the population, as a whole, and by definition cannot cater for every individual.
  • A position of consensus, as to the role patient autonomy plays needs to be established to ensure the best outcomes for patients and society as a whole. A sensible equilibrium must be reached to balance individual needs against the needs of society.


We extensively searched scholarly publications and research to identify the changing trends in healthcare. Several trends have been increasingly influencing healthcare over the last ten years. Most start to evolve slowly and then gain momentum. Once we had identified the trends that have been evolving slowly, we researched each individually to determine which of those that had gained significant traction in the last three to five years. By doing this, we were able to identify three trends that are playing a significant role in shaping the provision of healthcare at the current time.

Once we had determined the three trends, we searched the scholarly articles and publications relating to each trend to ensure it was a global trend, not a regional or country-based trend. We then researched each trend individually by evaluating medical publications and research. We also searched healthcare industry standards and guidelines to determine how the industry as a whole was adapting to these trends. Finally, we considered the impact these trends are having on medical education and research by searching publications of various institutions and research companies.