College undergraduates today are faced with many choices of where to concentrate their studies. It is important to look down the road to determine where the major unmet needs of society will be. The healthcare industry offers many opportunities and challenges over the coming decades. As I look to the future of healthcare, there are several trends emerging which might help direct those especially interested in this field.
The most obvious trend is that the population of the United States and around the world is aging. The need to develop new drugs, technologies, devices and services to deal with this demographic shift will benefit those who have chosen careers in innovative fields to address this problem. Experience in chemistry, biology, applied mathematics, statistics, and biomedical engineering are all skills which will be in high demand. As medicine becomes more personalized—as each person gets diagnosed and treated based on their genetic make-up—new technologies will develop in conjunction with the computer science field.
The healthcare industry is also a global market. In addition to our aging population, hundreds of millions of people in developing countries will enter the middle class in the coming years. For example, more people will enter the middle class in China in the near future than the entire population of the U.S. A facility with the language and an understanding of the cultures of countries now making up the global economy will also be useful.
Healthcare will clearly play a bigger role in the global economy in the decades ahead. Innovation will be key to offer more effective, cost-effective cures and treatments for unmet needs. Hopefully, students will take advantage of their universities offerings across various disciplines to gain a broad, worldly education. And that their choice of concentration will lead toward new innovations which can lead to the betterment of the human condition.