The recent Medtech Forum I attended in Paris left me with a strong impression regarding the central role that medical technology has in blending heart, science and ingenuity to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity. The sector’s adaptation to technological and societal change demonstrates why it is now better positioned than ever before to tackle global health challenges.
The sector has changed a great deal in the last decade. Firstly, major strides in the field of digital technologies (e.g. smart phones, apps, wearables) have forced the medtech sector to step out of its comfort zone to deliver applications that are meaningful for patients and healthcare professionals. Secondly, the patient population, more tech-savvy and with access to more validated information about their condition than ever before, is increasingly engaged and demanding. Both factors were reflected by ambition from industry, and the challenge to evolve and modernise is being met.
I believe that the industry’s amazing diversity means that all areas of healthcare delivery involve medical technology. It can be overwhelming to consider the possibilities that medtech will enable. It is perhaps helpful to briefly focus on two burgeoning areas of technology where our sector is already offering solutions, but with a real potential to become far more central to the healthcare delivery of the future.
1. Personalised medical devices
When thinking about the potential to increasingly tailor healthcare in the future, thoughts often turn to personalised medicine. Scientific progress in that field is undoubtedly exciting, but the medical technology sector has already made real progress on custom-made and targeted devices to meet individual needs.
Technology has already developed to the stage where it is possible to produce personalised medical devices such as 3D printing of joint implants based on an individual’s CT scan data. This is the technology of today; impressive enough already. The fact that the world’s first 3D printed heart, complete with human tissue and vessels, was recently showcased at Tel Aviv University shows a strong and exciting future.
2. Big data and artificial intelligence
The medical technology sector thrives on data. It is at the heart of what we do. We are working to enhance the understanding of disease, how we can better target smart and intercept it, and understand the impact of those interventions on patient’s lives. Increasing comorbidity is driving a move away from disease care towards something more sophisticated, and with a greater focus on prevention, interception or early diagnosis.
Developments in this field must enable all actors in healthcare to address each patient’s needs as an individual, always respecting the necessity for genuinely informed consent and guaranteed trust in security of data. A concern sometimes raised is that more reliance on tech for healthcare delivery might lead to a more mechanised approach with less of a personal engagement between healthcare professionals and patients. Rather, the future of big data and artificial intelligence in medical technology should be about improved understanding; enabling smarter decisions to tackle complex problems.
In my opinion the value that medtech can offer to the healthcare of the future is energising. While great strides forward are eye-catching, it is really the everyday commitment to improvement that leads to those breakthroughs. The sector’s laser-focus on meeting the needs of patients and healthcare professionals, allied to a spirit of adaptability and ingenuity, leaves the medtech sector well placed to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity.