5 WHO insights into conquering the medtech mismatch

  • Posted on 02.12.2013

5 WHO insights into conquering the medtech mismatch


Shweta Kulkarni

EDMA, Communications Manager


One central theme revolved around the Second World Health Organisation’s Global Forum on Medical Devices – the WHO recognises medical devices as an investment and not a cost. However, there is a mismatch between innovation of medical devices and public health needs. 

677 participants from 108 countries took their pick from 28 workshops and 4 plenary sessions. Held on November 22-24th in Geneva, the event enabled academia, international organisations, industry and NGOs to gain insight from 159 presentations, 144 posters (one of which was presented by EDMA on Lab Tests Online), and 8 films.

In each of the 37 publications on medical devices, the WHO reiterates the importance of medical devices in medical care. Here’s an excerpt from one such publication:

“Medical devices are important to provide health care and to improve the health of individuals and populations. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises this.”

While one of “WHO’s strategic objectives is to ensure improved access, quality and use of medical devices,” it highlighted the need to better align medical device innovation with the dire public health needs.  Medical Devices: Managing the Mismatcha thoroughly researched report gives insight into the management of this mismatch.

“The mismatch will only be resolved when a countervailing force exists to focus the medical device market towards public health considerations at all stages of the medical device life-cycle.  If this objective is to be achieved, the know-how, ingenuity and drive of the medical device industry will need to consider the quest for an equitable and cost-effective use of public health resources throughout the world.”

So how can the medical technology industry work towards conquering this mismatch?  After hearing perspectives from NGOs, academia, industry and international organisation, here are five insights from the event to help you get started:

1)   4 ‘A’s define the agenda to improve access to appropriate medical devices Availability, Accessibility, Appropriateness, and Affordability:

  • Availability refers to when a medical device can be found on the medical device market.
  • Accessibility is people’s ability to obtain and appropriately use good quality health technologies when they are needed.
  • Appropriate(ness) refers to medical methods, procedures, techniques, and equipment that are scientifically valid, adapted to local needs, acceptable to both patient and health-care personnel, and that can be utilized and maintained with resources the community or country can afford.
  • Affordability indicates the extent to which the intended clients of a health service or product can pay for it.

2)   Diagnostics industry contributes to low resource settings beyond Corporate Social Responsibility activities: Philanthropic contributions and intelligence sharing activities aside, it was clear that the diagnostic industry has invested in both customising already existing technologies and new LRS-specific tools that give full consideration to resource challenges.  They have pioneered innovative diagnostic tools for diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, sleeping sickness (also known as HAT) and other neglected diseases by matching them with affordability.  Organisations such as FIND, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have played an active role in establishing pricing agreements. 

3)   Bring research and manufacturing to low resource settings: Low resource settings don’t just need appropriate medical devices; they need holistic solutions that are locally empowering.  People need the feeling of ownership, this can be achieved by creating an enabling environment – one that brings research, manufacturing of medical devices to local markets.  Medical devices specifically designed, priced and manufactured in low resource settings could become the vehicle of better solutions that others follow. 

4)   Young entrepreneurs have a good grasp of localisation:  Presentations by young entrepreneurs at the Innovative Medical Devices for Low-Resource Settings panels provided clear insight into their knowledge and experience of answering the public health need rather than discovering a product and then creating the need.  Medical technology industry’s 5-year strategy Contract for a Healthy Future was also well received and many health stakeholders were interested in collaborating with the medtech industry.

5)   Mobile is the way to go: The entire event was a testament to Catherine Wong’s message that mobile diagnostics is the solution for the rest of the 90%.  From sterilising device to urine analysis of blood glucose, portability was a central feature in upcoming medical devices and diagnostics. Additionally, art design schools showcased how design can be customised in order to incorporate text messaging into the medical devices. 

Interestingly, EDMA’s presentation on Lab Tests Online clearly matched the scarcity of human expertise these settings face with an information resource available in 14 languages on laboratory tests.  Attendees saw the potential of a worldwide effort available for lab testing in languages prominently spoken in these settings – French, English, Spanish and Chinese. 

The need for conquering the medtech mismatch cannot be ignored, especially when the WHO has already identified 15 diseases that contribute to the global disease burden.  Perinatal conditions, low respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases and unipolar depressive disorders are the top 5 diseases that still need appropriate medical devices.  Now lets get started. 

– Shweta Kulkarni, EDMA, Communications Manager

The comments are closed.