It has been more than two years since the novel coronavirus made its debut on the world stage. Though it is uncertain what will occur with COVID in the coming years, enough time has passed since the beginning of the pandemic that business experts can begin to identify the economic effects of the political, social and economic responses to the virus.
From the earliest days of the pandemic, savvy business leaders recognized that traditional business operations would not thrive in a socially distant world. As lockdowns persisted beyond the two weeks initially promised by governments around the world, businesses could no longer open their doors to employees or customers, and major shifts occurred in which types of businesses could survive. More than two years on, plenty of industries and businesses have suffered significantly from COVID-19, but five fields in particular have experienced a spectacular rise:
Healthcare facilities around the world have struggled to shoulder the burden of COVID-19. Ill-equipped for a global pandemic, healthcare centers like hospitals and doctor’s offices requested that patients with non-emergency medical concerns stay physically distant and instead consult with providers offering telemedicine services. Though access to telehealth solutions has been increasing in recent years, the pandemic caused participation with telemedicine programs to skyrocket. Now, a majority of American healthcare providers offer telehealth options to patients who do not need (or cannot manage) an in-person visit.
Experts have predicted that a significant amount of healthcare funding could swing toward telehealth solutions in the coming years, addressing not only the need for secure connections with patients but also for online diagnostic tools and systems for testing physically distant patients. Making healthcare safer and more convenient for everyone will undoubtedly fuel the telemedicine industry in the years after COVID-19.
Broadly speaking, the field of education technology, or EdTech for short, has been steadily growing for years as teachers and students have benefited from the introduction of information technology to the education space. Since the 1990s, classrooms first added clunky desktop computers and overhead projectors, and now they have sleek tablets and Smart Boards. Yet, when COVID-19 closed schools and separated students and teachers from classrooms, almost all that critical technology was replaced by another form of EdTech: eLearning.
Almost immediately, the pandemic caused a surge in online education, to the point that major online education companies saw significant surges in activity across their websites and big boosts to their profits. Because of COVID-19, young students became comfortable with distance learning, and breaks from work also allowed professionals to engage with online short courses to improve their skills. Though many schools are back to offering in-person classes, it is likely that online education will remain a first choice for many students who appreciate the convenience and low cost.
Inarguably, ecommerce was an essential industry well before the pandemic. For almost a full decade until 2019, ecommerce sales maintained a steady growth rate of about 14 percent, demonstrating consumers’ increasing interest in and trust of online retailers.
However, when the pandemic struck in 2020, online sales skyrocketed. The ecommerce industry saw a massive 31.8 percent growth in sales. This shift in consumer behavior likely had many causes, from government shutdowns that closed their favorite brick-and-mortar businesses to boredom during breaks from work. Still, many consumers have become accustomed to the convenience of online shopping, so retail businesses need to find ways to engage in ecommerce and meet consumer expectations.
Even before the pandemic, streaming entertainment was outcompeting traditional entertainment like the box office or broadcast TV. Streaming services, which include Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney Plus and an uncountable number of others, have taken full advantage of digital technologies to give consumers the access and control they crave from their sources of entertainment.
During the pandemic, lack of access to other forms of entertainment and activity caused a surge in consumption of online video, and though in-person entertainment venues have largely reopened, consumers continue to clamor for the release of media on streaming sites as they have adjusted to over the past two years. Now, entertainment companies must offer a streaming solution to deliver media quickly and efficiently to consumers, or they face obsolescence in the coming years.
Rather than revolutionizing the way we live, the novel coronavirus seems to have accelerated trends that were already occurring. Rather than replacing old industries with brand-new ones, the pandemic allowed steadily growing industries to thrive, ushering in the next evolution of the digital age sooner than expected.