More than a year ago, COVID-19 swept across the world, sending us all into lockdown as we battled the pandemic. Today, as we gradually emerge from the impact and experiences of the past year, I am proud and inspired by how resilient we have been and our ability to find new ways of connecting with patients and customers to add value. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve been constantly challenged to rethink the delivery of care, and we now have a unique opportunity to reimagine the future of health today – whether it’s through developing meaningful innovation that drives better patient outcomes, prioritizing long-term health and wellness, or promoting health equity in underserved communities around the world.
Although COVID-19 has been incredibly challenging for the healthcare system, it has also served as a remarkable catalyst for accelerating shifts in healthcare. And with respect to the medtech industry, we’ve been compelled to adapt and prioritize patients and customer needs, accelerate innovation, and find creative solutions to elevate the standard of care.
The pandemic has shown us just how creative we can get when it comes to medtech. With the rapid advancement of technology, it is now possible to deliver care in novel ways and even create entirely new categories of care, ensuring that medical intervention will become smarter, less invasive, and more personalised. In fact, I’m very excited about what’s on the horizon as J&J MedTech develops an end-to-end digital ecosystem that connects technologies across the continuum of patient care.
We are also doubling down on digital solutions, including digital patient engagement, telehealth, remote case management, telementoring and virtual surgeon training to reach doctors and healthcare providers around the world, and expand coverage to emerging sites of care. We recognize that digital solutions represent new ways of working in the medtech industry, and we will need to meet surgeons and patients wherever they may be.
Without a doubt, COVID-19 has exposed egregious racial inequities in our healthcare system, and we recognise that we are facing a pivotal moment in our communities and across companies. It is vital that we openly talk about racial and social injustices and how we can collectively make a positive impact and drive long overdue change by promoting health equity.
Simply championing diversity and inclusion is not enough. We need to progress in areas like unconscious and implicit bias training, improve patient education and access to quality healthcare, ensure robust diversity in our clinical trials, increase diverse representation in healthcare fields, and support healthcare workers in underserved and communities of colour.
We recognise that we have a critical opportunity to expand and accelerate our actions on a global scale. But we can’t do this alone – we must learn from the experiences of those impacted by these inequities to better understand what they need, and how we can most effectively address their needs and promote health equity.
One bright spot on the horizon is the potential for closer collaboration between the US and the EU in healthcare, especially as the US re-joins the WHO and steps up cooperation against global health threats. Safeguarding public health is a critical issue for every country, and we must strengthen worldwide partnerships to effectively combat emerging health concerns.
For the medtech sector, there have been encouraging developments in terms of the EU and the US working to align on how medical devices are regulated. In 2019, a US-EU working group issued a recommendation in favour of opening negotiations between the two trading partners to develop a new international agreement that would entail mutual recognition of conformity assessments performed by regulators from either regulatory bloc.
If enacted, this agreement would result in a significant reduction of costs for medical device manufacturers, as devices currently need to be tested twice to meet the regulatory standards of both the US and the EU. The current system leads to delays and higher prices for patients, and any measures that eliminate barriers to access would certainly be ideal.
Leading with Optimism
While COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges for the medtech industry, we are also encouraged by the prospects and pace at which the industry is bouncing back. I’m proud that the medtech industry has become more nimble and agile, enabling us to push the boundaries of what we can do, and how we can reach patients around the world.
It has also shown us that industry collaboration can drive meaningful innovation much faster, leading to quicker delivery of novel solutions. Although it’s been difficult and disruptive at times, we’re excited by the momentum we’re building to reshape medtech, and we’re leading with optimism throughout this year and beyond.
This blog is part of the MedTech Forum 2021 blog series.