The focus and relevance are rapidly shifting from developing hardware to software and analysis of the data collected. Harnessing the collected data and using it effectively will be the differentiating factor for success.
This is an exciting time for the MedTech industry. Healthcare systems around the world are increasingly looking for innovative solutions that will address pressing needs, while advances in science and technology are opening up new possibilities. Often, these advances sit at areas of convergence – between different clinical disciplines and industries. The boundaries of MedTech are increasingly blurred by convergence with biotechnology, telecommunication, artificial intelligence, and even consumer health and wellness.
It is right to look some way into the future, as the new ideas of today will enter the market to address the pressing needs of some years hence. Companies with game-changing innovations that incorporate cutting-edge science have the potential to achieve significant population-level health impacts. These are the innovations with greatest potential to scale and address global markets.
From AI technology to needle-less diabetes care, the most recent innovations within the MedTech industry have already proven to be highly effective at delivering quantifiable results to people in need. Transformational technologies (e.g., AI, quantum computing, cloud storage, and augmented and virtual reality), an explosion of mineable data, tech-savvy companies from outside the industry, and empowered consumers armed with actionable data are among the forces that are likely to define the future of health. Rather than focusing on how to treat illnesses effectively, technology is likely to help keep people from having an illness or medical event in the first place.
MedTech companies have traditionally been focused on developing hardware (e.g., surgical equipment, joint replacements, diagnostic equipment, infusion pumps, and pacemakers). Nevertheless, software, along with data collection and analysis, is likely to act as a key factor in influencing healthcare businesses in the future. In many ways, data collected from hardware will be more valuable than the hardware itself. And 20 years from now, most of this medical hardware will be commoditized. What can set MedTech companies apart from each other will be their ability to harness data gathered by their devices and use it to improve well-being, anticipate health issues, and help patients change the day-today behaviors that affect their health.
The sheer diversity of the MedTech sector means that while there are common aspects to the innovation pathway, there is no standard approach that all can follow. Some innovations provide immediate patient outcomes and financial benefits that make them readily adoptable, while other highly promising scientific ideas will require significant market, making activities through service change and financial reforms before they can sustain company growth.
New capabilities are required to win in the future of health
According to a recent report Winning in the future of MedTech by Deloitte, MedTech companies are considering what role they would like to play in the future ecosystem – data and platform provider, well-being and care delivery organization, care enabler, or elements of all three.
Invest in data and technology infrastructure. MedTech companies are considering how to collect and manage data from multiple sources, including connected devices, to strengthen evidence-management capabilities and improve operational efficiencies. A well-defined enterprise-architecture structure and capability can be a critical success factor in developing an efficient technology portfolio that supports scalable growth, speed to market, lower total cost of ownership, and increased flexibility. Information sets should be treated as investments and managed like portfolios to leverage indirect insights that expand understanding, deepen relationships, and improve outcomes and efficiencies. The platform will be required to find, organize, and analyze internal and external datasets. MedTech companies could do this best through partnerships.
Build analytics and AI capabilities. Data will be generated from multiple sources, and much of it will be unstructured. Companies will need the right tools to make sense of this data. Partnerships between MedTech companies and data/consumer tech companies are likely to accelerate to support both data access and analysis. However, traditional MedTech companies will likely still need some data-analytics capabilities – a core team that can articulate medical knowledge to the data scientists and other parts of the organization. This team should also help translate the data findings back to the broader organization, so they are not stuck in a black box.
Develop digital well-being and remote monitoring solutions. MedTech companies might want to invest in remote monitoring solutions to improve remote access to patients in order to help enable the transition to more care outside of the hospital and shift the emphasis toward prevention and maintaining well-being. Specifically, investment in digital therapeutics, such as AI-based wellness coaching, could help enable behavior change that avoids the need for surgery or hospitalization altogether.
Strategically partner or integrate with providers. As MedTech companies expand service offerings, they could become increasingly integrated with provider systems. Comprehensive solutions, including software, decision-support tools, and consulting services, could help clinicians and health systems achieve their business and clinical goals.
Get closer to the consumer. MedTech companies should strive to better understand the needs of the end-user. A more thorough understanding of consumer needs could lead to the development of more user-friendly devices, without the intervention of a clinician. Further, they should explore ways to offer patient-centered services in nonclinical settings.
Regardless of which path a company chooses, many options are underpinned by the ability to generate and analyze data. In the near term, MedTech companies are considering collaborating with consumer-technology companies to leverage best-in-class capabilities. Consumer-technology companies bring technology expertise and offer a deep understanding of consumers and their needs. Some MedTech companies see consumer technology companies as a competitive threat, rather than as potential collaborators. There is some fear that organizations from outside the MedTech space might learn key pieces of the intellectual property (IP) and leverage MedTech’s specialized know-how so that they can develop their own medical devices. While MedTech companies should put the right protections in place to protect IP, they should not be reluctant to explore possible collaborations or partnerships. Companies might consider testing the waters by collaborating on one or two specific use cases. Also, there is a need to examine the bounds of the relationship as pilots succeed or fail. It might very well be too late for some, but complacency and the old speed are unlikely to be sufficient in this race to leverage omnipresent data in the future of health.
The road ahead
While it is impossible to foresee the exact contours of the future healthcare industry, it is certainly instructive to study emerging trends and disruptive trajectories.
Smart MedTech adoption and thoughtful administrative tooling can help enhance disruption resiliency, while improving patient care and reducing operational costs. Though MedTech is already ubiquitous across contemporary healthcare practices, there remains a great deal of room for modernization and expansion into new applications. Advances in remote patient monitoring, imaging AI, and wearables will irrevocably change how healthcare is practiced in coming years.
At the same time, those changes will bring increased cybersecurity risk, along with added regulatory oversight, and scrutiny. Still, with careful planning, foresight, and purpose-specific technological solutions in place, those risks cannot only be managed but innovation can be leveraged as a profound opportunity and key differentiator in the face of uncertain market conditions.