Roland Berger Trend Compendium 2050: Health & Care

Roland Berger Trend Compendium 2050: Health & Care

August 30, 2021

Trend 2 of our Trend Compendium 2050 analyzes pandemics and other challenges, diseases and treatments, and caregiving

In Trend 2 of our Trend Compendium 2050 we are faced with a most topical megatrend: Health and care . Here, we look at the various aspects of pandemics and other health challenges, as well as diseases and treatments, and the increasingly pressing issue of caregiving.

Pandemics and other challenges: It wasn't the first nor the last – but other important health challenges are rising to the top of the global agenda

Over the lifetime of the average person, global pandemics are very rare but not entirely uncommon. Yet, epidemics – more localized, regional events – are far more common than we might be aware of. Thankfully, targeted medical intervention normally manages to prevent them from becoming truly global threats. Preparedness for such events is everything, as the spread of coronavirus has made abundantly clear.

"We are going to get more pandemics (…) I don’t think there's any doubt about it. (…) We will get pandemics with much higher mortality than the one we just had. "

Sir John Bell

Regius Professor of Medicine
Oxford University

The current pandemic is on a par with several equally pressing global health issues. Specifically, the mounting resistance of certain microbes to drugs such as antibiotics that easily and successfully treat infections is a threat to modern medicine. R&D funding for new drugs is slowly starting to gain traction through more globally concerted action. Watch this space: Failure to succeed in this area is expected to cause 10 million deaths per annum directly related to antimicrobial resistance by 2050.

External environmental conditions , such as pollution, as well as other effects of climate change place an alarming global burden of disease on the world's population. The climate crisis must be understood as a health crisis, too. Its nexus ranges from water born illnesses to aggravating cardiovascular and respiratory diseases – and it comes at a price: One third of the global cost of addressing climate change accounts for health-related costs.

Healthcare spending per capita to 2050 is expected to rise in all countries, with the strongest rises expected in middle income countries to 2050. Low-income countries, which often only have a basic health infrastructure and quality of care will see the smallest increases.

Diseases & Treatments: From cells to systems – our concept of health goes beyond the mere absence of disease

An increasing world population to 2050 also paints a complex, regionally variable picture regarding the burden of disease and the number of deaths from communicable (CD) and noncommunicable (NCD) diseases. Global CD mortality numbers are decreasing, often due to increased hygiene and better living standards. This, however, puts the spotlight firmly on NCDs, i.e. diseases that are largely chronic in nature and usually results from a combination of multiple factors, not least including inactivity, poor nutrition or unhealthy diets, the harmful use of alcohol and tobacco, and environmental factors, such as pollution.

In the years to 2050 and across all regions, cost- and care-intensive illnesses such as dementia and diabetes will widen their position amongst the top 5 causes of NCD deaths – behind cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and respiratory diseases. Judging by the risk factors of this group of diseases, a vast share is modifiable and even preventable. To get in front of treatments, prevention and self-care (supported by smart devices such as wearables) will increasingly play a part in our future concept of health: The goal is the increasing of our healthspan, not just of our lifespan.

In the future, treatment of diseases will be increasingly technology-driven and -supported, which already can be seen from eHealth applications to R&D breakthroughs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Novel gene and cell therapies open new therapeutic approaches for widespread diseases with long-lasting effects. The rise of medtech applications, the utilization of AI and machine learning across numerous fields of medicine, as well as the increasing importance of telehealth, all accelerate the fact that future concepts of health will become more predictive and more preventative in nature.

Caregiving: An aging society and its increasing need for care

Caregiving can take many forms but at its core it is always concerned with the assistance of activities of daily living of a person in need. Care support systems and care resource allocation vary considerably around the world. Where data is available, it becomes clear that the provision of care at home by a family member, usually untrained and unpaid, is the cornerstone of caregiving worldwide, placing a considerable burden on the economy as well as the individual.

Beyond developed, mostly Western countries, long-term care (LTC) support systems are at best patchy with care resource allocation equaling to only 1-3% share of GDP. Long-term care trends across many countries display a shift from care in institutions to at-home care: The aim is to achieve care system sustainability by containing cost-intensive institutional LTC infrastructure. The LTC workforce in Europe is predominantly female (81%) – a gender split that has barely shifted over the past decade.

An undisputed aspect in caregiving is the increasing need for more care workers in future years. With the global rise of dementia, but also other care-intensive illnesses in aging societies, care needs are becoming increasingly complex. According to the OECD, by 2040 an additional 60% of LTC workers will be needed to keep the current ratio of care workers to elderly care recipients – but with productivity improvements this number could be halved. For this, there are plenty of starting points: One third of care work is dealing with administrative reporting tasks. In this labor-intensive sector, where recruitment and retention are already key concerns in most countries, the easing of processes, as well as the support of the many demanding aspects of caregiving, through the full use of technological innovations must modernize this vital sector on its journey to 2050 and make it more attractive.

How companies can take advantage of megatrends

Learning the lesson from outlier events such as COVID-19 is essential but being prepared for more likely localized disruptive events is equally paramount. Impacts on supply chains but also on political and regulatory frameworks need to be under regular review by companies to level up their preparedness – also for wide ranging climate-related health impacts. Promoting a healthy workplace as well as preventative measures in the context of occupational health directly supports productivity. An older workforce requires age-awareness and flexibility, but to encourage the use of health tech saves time and resources. Companies have to factor in that caregiving is a universal yet often invisible topic and can affect anyone at any time – including the bottom line.

For companies active in the health and care sector, challenges and opportunities are more acute

In drug R&D an open perspective can proof to be highly beneficial to find novel synergies beyond the initial goal. Companies in the health and care sector should benefit from the trend towards all things digital and connectedness in many aspects of personal health and wellbeing – from self-care apps to wearables. Equally, in diagnosis and treatment but also in caregiving, companies should tap into the scope of innovative technologies such as AI or robotic devices. Care workers are a captive audience for smart technologies that work without diminishing the core of their profession: the present and future quality of care. This trend also reframes aspects of recruitment and retention in the care sector and can help attract more male care worker to the profession.


Roland Berger Trend Compendium 2050: Health & Care


In Trend 2 of our Trend Compendium 2050 we are faced with a most topical megatrend: Health and care.

Published August 2021. Available in
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