In a post-COVID-19 world, MedTech can play a critical role in monitoring, preventing and minimising the impact of viruses on human health and national economies.
However, the stocks of many major medical device companies aren’t fairing well as the pandemic impacts sales and growth projections. Experts predict a further decline in sales as healthcare providers curtail general elective procedures to focus on the corona crisis.
While the current state of the industry may seem bleak, the future can be rewarding. With all the right ingredients, it’s an opportunity or the catalyst that leads to greater MedTech innovation and growth.
As frontline workers in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices focus on urgent cases, this could be telehealth’s moment. This approach helps patients, especially senior citizens, minimise their exposure to risk through telehealth consultations.
Telecommuting is not just for doctor’s appointments. As regulatory agencies have loosened the red tape to accelerate innovation and achieve speed-to-patient, telecommuting to work helps enhance collaboration (often across industries), to address pertinent issues like gaps in the supply chain.
Atena, for example, is well-placed to respond to the pandemic as they have already embraced remote working more than a decade ago.
Atena now screens, trains, and supports remote workers or almost half of their workforce. Furthermore, the healthcare provider also partnered with psychologists at Cornell University to address employee isolation effectively. This approach has seen the company cut overheads such as real estate costs while retaining top talent.
However, only a few in the healthcare sector are ready to telecommute. This doesn’t mean that it’s too late; it just means that they have to act immediately.
Responsible innovation is driven by agility and immediate action
If MedTech companies choose to hibernate during the crisis, they may not wake up when this is over. In fact, maintaining business continuity during the times of COVI-19 is essential to maintain business relevance.
For startups and established MedTech brands to step up and deliver on a global stage, it’s a chance to reimagine products, innovate and create new ones, and try to find solutions to this crisis through responsible innovation.
This can also be achieved if it’s built on the foundation of affordability and agility.
To emerge from this crisis better than ever before, MedTech companies need to focus on the following key areas:
- Accelerate diagnostics and monitoring
- Redefine and reimagine products
- Ensure supply and delivery
- Ensure business continuity through virtualization
1. Accelerate diagnostics and monitoring
At present, it’s critical to test and get reliable results at speed and at scale. The best approach here is to leverage intelligent digital solutions and build predictive models.
Once global health is stabilized, success can be maintained by deploying digital monitoring of infections. To achieve this in the longterm, we have to first develop a digital platform that can collect and consolidate data from diagnostic labs, reliably.
Healthcare professionals, like MedTech service technicians who aren’t present due to the ban on non-essential personnel, need to virtualize these physical interactions. Steps must be taken now to prepare for the surge in demand when “normal life” resumes after the pandemic.
It’s crucial for MedTech industry associations across the world to establish standards and share information. This approach will help detect, monitor, and forecast the spread of infections to manage hospital capability efficiently.
2. Redefine and reimagine products
Accelerated development has the potential to save lives. So it’s vital to take a simplistic approach to design. The goal here is to build minimally featured products (that ticks all the boxes), simplify the whole process, to get the product to the patients rapidly.
This can be anything from smart hospital beds, ventilators, and more. However, it’s critical to think beyond the current crisis to ensure that your products are easily adapted from acute to at-home care wherever possible.
New MedTech products need to leverage the latest technologies to be able to gain steam among tech-driven users whose usability expectations become more and more sophisticated. Artificial intelligence and machine learning, natural language processing and speech-to-text functionality, VR/AR and 3D, blockchain are just some of the examples of what needs to be added to the existing and new MedTech products to make them competitive and attractive to target users.
While core in-house MedTech R&D teams should focus entirely on device design, UX/UI and data security, front-end and back-end software development projects should be outsourced to bespoke software development partners with a solid know-how, ability to optimise software engineering costs and build proof-of-concept products fast to provide MedTech companies with an unparalleled competitive edge.
3. Ensure supply and delivery
For this to work, we need to address projected shortages of life-sustaining supplies. MedTech businesses collaborating across industries are better placed to foresee manufacturing disruptions through increased visibility and transparency.
By embracing advanced digital capabilities, organizations will also be better placed to augment operations, enhance agility, drive scenario modeling, and improve the resilience of supply chains and operations.
To accommodate more stringent protection policies and procedures, companies must leverage mobility and enable extensive remote collaboration and monitoring while adhering to new regulatory reporting requirements.
4. Ensure business continuity through virtualization
For new technologies to make it into hospitals and healthcare facilities, sales representatives need access to decision-makers. However, this isn’t possible during lockdowns.
So if your institution doesn’t have the digital capability to accommodate seamless access to clinicians, patients, and sales representatives, now is the time to modernize your workforce.
In this scenario, you’ll have to rethink the MedTech product or service’s value proposition and build it to rapidly adapt to changing demands. For example, the delivery method of a non-vital service can be completed through remote interactions.
It’s also the right time to eliminate paper-based processes and deploy sustainable remote interaction media. These can also be platforms used for online communication, collaboration, education, training, and so on.
What does MedTech need to do right now?
The MedTech industry needs to accelerate the development of next-generation products or risk irrelevance.
So how do we achieve this during these unprecedented times?
- The best approach here is to build an extended team of MedTech software developers. These professionals can also augment or support in-clinic teams. In this scenario, they can develop new products that meet present and future demands quickly or update existing ones;
- Integrate existing clinical workflows with your product or any connected product, seamlessly;
- Seek to make sustainable changes to balance quality and patient safety risk amongst manufacturers, regulatory authorities, and end-users;
- Build strong relationships with startups and alliance partners to develop robust innovation networks that are centered around the user.
However, achieving all this rapidly and at scale is a challenge. Only a few MedTech companies engage in teleworking and have the infrastructure to support it. As a result, it’s best to partner with tech companies that boast robust remote working infrastructure to accelerate innovation.
Considering the fact that this new reality could be the new norm for years to come, we have to fundamentally reimagine how our products and services can add more flexibility and resilience to healthcare functions and operations.
MedTech companies also have to rethink their value propositions and end-user experiences. Onsite interactions, monitoring, and collaborations, fo example, can be moved online. Continuous updates based on feedback loops will ensure that the needs of the industry are met.
What to look for in a dynamic tech partner?
MedTech companies looking to partner with tech companies to accelerate innovation must look for the following:
- Consistent enforcement of security best practices
- Proven experience
- Remote Research and Development (R&D) capabilities
- Robust teleworking infrastructure
It’ll be critical to partner with a technology company that boasts security, a pool of top tech talent, teleworking, and robust R&D facilities to ensure accelerated development and regulatory compliance. Whenever you partner with Evolve, for example, you get immediate remote access to our top tech talent and R&D centers in Ukraine.
For the MedTech sector, it’s time to stand up and be counted. Those who are proactive and responsive to the needs of healthcare facilities are well-placed to build a robust foundation for the future and thrive. Those who choose to wait for a vaccine will risk business irrelevance.
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