Technological marvels in medical technology are arriving, and they will transform the entire healthcare chain
It is not always easy to see a change occurring when it is happening right in front of you, so even those with long years of experience in healthcare might not recognise that the sector is currently undergoing a transformation like never before.
The main driver for this change is Medtech innovation. Bold advances in a broad range of technologies like medical devices, in vitro diagnostics and imaging solutions can now solve health challenges that were previously considered insurmountable.
The solutions and processes emerging today are ingenious in the way they can cure, fix and save us. But medtech is doing more than that. It is radically changing the way healthcare is delivered, the way professionals treat us, and the way we experience healthcare.
Bench-to-bedside from cradle to grave
While there have been many medical revolutions over the years, the current Medtech burst is different for a number reasons. It is partly related to the wider trend of technological advances and opportunities aimed at consumer-centric user-friendliness.
The new generation of medtech innovation has an even greater focus on accessible benefits to doctors and nurses in combination with creating better and faster access to healthcare for patients around the globe. When combined with more widespread and faster Internet access, it opens up tremendous possibilities for the healthcare industry. This all is built on the foundation of the bench-to-bedside-to-bench development model, the process by which the results of research done in the laboratory is triggered by clearly articulated medical needs and are directly used to develop new treatments, in close collaboration with doctors, nurses and patients.
In the past, medtech would focus on diagnostics and curative care (knee replacements, pacemakers), but today the focus is more on improving the life of patients over the course of their chronic disease. Medtech can now legitimately boast that it covers care from cradle to grave, with technologies ranging from pregnancy tests and sonograms to hearing aids and artificial hips, and everything in between.
This generation of Medtech will be driving a push towards technology-enabled healthcare as seen in three related developments:
- Early diagnostics: Thanks to technologies like wearables (external), sensor technology (internal), implantables and big data management, we will know instantly when there is a problem and when action is needed. Indeed, the growth in big data can help link genetic profiles to specific diseases, or reveal how patients will respond to a drug. This ability will help shift the focus towards asymptomatic disease identification, where early intervention can lead to lower healthcare costs;
- Quicker and significantly less invasive intervention: Patients can expect much faster responses thanks to collaboration amongst disciplines, like nanotech engineers working with surgeons, radiologists, physiologists and pharmacists leading to quick and minimal invasive solutions.
- Patient monitoring after intervention, and disease management: the largest healthcare costs are incurred in patients with chronic diseases that need hospitalization multiple times per year. Many of the hospitalizations are triggered by sub optimal management of the patients at home, bad drug compliance and behavioral challenges. Medtech will play a crucial role in allowing to have patients leave the hospital earlier while ensuring patient compliance (for example, by reminding them to take medication in the right dose and at the right time), supporting them on dietary aspects and monitoring their vital life functions on a continues basis. Patients can be supported to self-manage their condition, so they will minimise the chance of adverse events and related cost increases.
Paying based on outcomes rather than interventions
The long-term impact will be incredibly positive for patients, professionals, health systems and society at large, with efficiency savings throughout the sector. This is especially pertinent as payers are increasingly insisting on paying for outcomes rather than delivery of services: Medtech will help create a feedback loop that reinforces the most appropriate care. It ultimately means:
- Better care, more tailored to individual patients;
- A more treatable patient population;
- Lower healthcare costs through better prevention;
- Treatments directed at patients who really need it;
- Care shared by industry, government and payers through risk sharing models.
However, to meet current and future healthcare needs, and to better respond to governments more and more paying based on outcome rather than intervention, it is clear that many of the traditional “walls” between healthcare delivery models needs to be torn down.
-Rob ten Hoedt, Chairman, MedTech Europe