An L.E.K. Consulting survey of 3,000 users of private healthcare services in the UK, France, Germany and Spain shows that COVID-19 has increased people’s interest in their own health and wellbeing, and that, for the most part, individual spending in the sector will be back to pre-pandemic levels or higher by the end of 2021. 

The research reinforces further analysis by L.E.K. showing that people’s greater focus on self-care, their mental health and ease of access to health solutions are long-term trends that have been boosted by the pandemic.

Private healthcare providers should review their strategies to ensure they are optimised to capture this growing market.

Private healthcare spending set to increase

Most respondents said the pandemic had made them more interested in their health and wellness (UK, 70%; France, 60%; Germany, 55%; Spain, 80% — see Figure 1). This is particularly the case for people under 45 in the UK and France, and high-income households in Germany.

As a result, private healthcare users expect to resume their pre-pandemic levels of spending on their health or increase it in 2021 (UK, 85%; France, 60%; Germany, 60%; Spain, 90% — see Figure 2). 

The most buoyant market is the UK, where spending is set to increase across all 15 of the private healthcare sub-sectors reviewed, with the top three areas being cosmetic skin treatments, orthopaedics and laser ophthalmology — see Figure 3. Growth is expected in all sub-sectors in Germany and Spain, apart from laser ophthalmology (Germany) and plastic surgery (Spain), which will remain static. But the outlook is more robust in Spain, with generally higher levels of spending anticipated, especially in laser ophthalmology, dental orthodontics and mental health treatment. France is the weakest market, as six sectors are set to see a decline in spending.

As private healthcare services companies forecast and plan their business post-pandemic, they should prepare for returning confidence and growth opportunities. They will need to build into their strategy an understanding of how the growth outlook varies by country and sub-sector. Patient familiarity with digital consultations as a result of the pandemic offers healthcare providers a further opportunity to enhance the patient experience through digital channels and improve margins by being able to undertake more consultations.

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