As the old saying goes, making predictions can be difficult – especially about the future. If you need evidence of this, think how you might have answered the question ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’ if you had been asked in 2016.
But while the pandemic has delivered a harsh lesson in humility for forecasters and futurologists, it has also been a catalyst for fulfilling some of the predictions about the innovation-fuelled evolution of healthcare delivery which had been slow to take hold.
The obvious example is in the use of digital tools. For years, those of us with an eye on innovation were excited by the potential of communication technologies to revolutionise everything from doctor-patient consultations and healthcare professionals’ training to wearables and mobile diagnostic apps.
I’m sure I am not alone in having experienced a degree of frustration in the slow pace of change in healthcare. While digital technologies have transformed financial services, travel and entertainment, health systems often showed little appetite for disruption.
As we reflect on a turbulent year, this is also a good moment to look ahead and ask what the next five to ten years may hold. I expect this to be a question that will trigger a lively discussion at the MedTech Forum where the perspectives of patients, health professionals, economists and industry will come together.
Accelerating positive change
Before looking ahead, let’s first take stock of where we are today. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us immense challenges. Our social lives, our economies and our work have been radically shaken up. Our health systems, many of which are still under considerable strain, have also been turned on their heads.
While many health professionals have responded with admirable agility to keep services running where possible, some are exhausted by a crisis that feels unending. Our shared challenge is to chart a route out of the pandemic that preserves the best of the innovative solutions embraced over the past year, and to think hard about how future waves of innovation can make services more efficient and in turn improve patient care and outcomes.
This moment of change calls for a disruptive view of the future of healthcare and how the medtech industry can deliver value. Digital health, robotics and connected care are moving centre stage. There is potential too to unlock the power of outcome-based healthcare to make savings while making care safer and better.
I also expect much more attention will be paid to preventative health and the value of investing in population wellbeing. Patient safety, infection control and a greater support for healthy lifestyles are likely to rise up the agenda. And, with the climate crisis still looming in the background, solutions that reduce environmental footprint of the industry and healthcare will be to the fore.
Just as responding to the pandemic required us all to embrace new partnerships, I look forward to seeing this spirit of collaboration harnessed to address these challenges.