I have been truly humbled by the collective response of the medical technology industry through this pandemic. As we approach MedTech Week 2020, our industry can be proud of the contribution we have made. But as we reflect on the impact of this unprecedented year, perhaps the true legacy has yet to reveal itself: how in the midst of a crisis, medical technologies found the path to realise its full potential.
A crisis creates a specific dynamic that is very different from normal business. We are forced out of predictable routines to deal with alarming situations. In a crisis, speed of response is paramount. We adapt, switch, pivot to try new things – because the alternative is unconscionable.
COVID-19 has made clear to the wider world what many of us knew already: healthcare is a very complex – and highly interdependent – eco-system. When we take a step forward, everyone needs to be ready and willing to take the step together for the change to be realised. It takes a unifying purpose, a sense of urgency and strong leadership from all stakeholders, from carers to payers and everyone in between.
Faced with a crisis, our healthcare system – a system that has sometimes had the unfair reputation of moving at a snail’s pace – picked up its feet and became a sprinter. Overnight, remote technologies were adopted, ventilator and PPE manufacturing ramped up, supply chains were rerouted, professional education moved online, and everyone learnt how to do Zoom calls. (Well, almost: “you’re on mute!” I am reminded often.) Bottom line, we stayed connected with customers every step of the way and we proved that together, we can move mountains to save lives.
We also learned how crucial it is to address the severe disruption of patient care pathways, especially for cardiovascular patients who are at an increased risk if they contract COVID-19. We all together need to work to avoid postponements and closures of routine medical care and to encourage patients to access treatments, without fear or hesitancy.
Conditions for innovation are strong
As the dust settles from the urgency of the initial COVID-19 response, we now need some time to reflect: how much of our sudden change of pace was of the moment and in response to a crisis, and how much do we want to hold onto as a new and better way of doing things?
A cursory glance at my LinkedIn feed any day tells me that our industry is highly invigorated by these questions and possible solutions. At the click of a button, I can join discussions on new remote solutions, telehealth, diagnostics, patient perspectives, multi-source supply chains, new perspectives on infection prevention, AI and robotics, distance learning technologies… the list goes on.
Key also will be our ability to improve access to innovation. For instance, in the framework of the new EU Medical Devices Regulation, implementing ‘Early Feasibility Studies’ to allow efficient access to innovation in a very secure manner.
We are connecting, sharing learning and seeking answers. It seems co-operation and co-creation have replaced silos and competition. To me, these are all important indications that mindsets are shifting, and the conditions are right for significant advances in innovation.
A unifying purpose
We must do all we can to listen to patients and their representatives to understand their evolving needs.
This industry remains about people: inspiring the amazing people working in our industry to champion new ways forward and staying truly focused on the unmet needs of the patients we serve. Let’s continue to build collaboration and trust; develop strategic partnerships and alliances to nurture our vibrant medtech eco-system.
I think we can all admit to operating well outside our comfort zone for most of 2020. The question is: can we harness that feeling to realise our potential? I certainly hope so. Creating solutions for a healthier tomorrow for millions of people is a compelling motivator.