COVID-19 and its impact has been unprecedented. Nowhere is this more visible than in our healthcare sector, where hospital and ICU capacity have been stretched to their limits. Healthcare professionals and other frontline staff have performed heroic yet exhausting feats – delivering superhuman efforts to ensure continuity of care.
I’m proud that the MedTech industry has supported them, rethinking the delivery of care through the swift uptake of digital solutions. For example, virtual surgeon and healthcare professional (HCP) training was developed rapidly, while patient interaction tools for virtual assessment and planning were developed and leveraged online.
This brought real benefits for HCPs and patients, with advanced data analytics in surgery helping to improve outcomes. We saw almost twice as many users utilise virtual or telehealth services in one year (increasing from 15% to 28%), as well as new, virtual HCP commercial interactions, due to COVID-19 restrictions. As healthcare embraced digital tools, relevant online content was available for customers.
It is vital that the benefits of going digital are sustained into the future. As an industry we must continue to use digital solutions in the post-COVID world, fundamentally changing the way we deliver care. If we succeed in doing this together, we can support better patient outcomes, increase healthcare system capacity and reduce the cost of care delivery.
The industry already offers an impressive array of digital tech to help with the immediate challenges of COVID-19 and its aftermath – particularly for clearing the backlog of elective procedures.
Operating Rooms (ORs) can connect to the cloud to collect and analyse surgical video for surgeon learning; patient-specific 3D anatomical reconstructions can help surgeons navigate procedures just by using that patient’s CT or MRI scan; digital workflows can enhance teamwork and drive consistency in the OR. Digital surgery represents the potential for a full ecosystem in action, offering a platform of connected digital technologies powered by data insights
I believe COVID-19 can be a catalyst for lasting change. We now have a unique opportunity to reimagine the future of health – whether it’s through developing meaningful innovation that drives better patient outcomes or that prioritises long-term health and wellness.
The EU recovery funds and strategies should seek to accelerate the transformation of healthcare systems in Europe – putting digital at their heart – and improve the attractiveness of the region. The recovery should also be inclusive, and act as a springboard for better collaboration and increased efforts to better intercept diseases, empowering patients and societies to care for health and prevent health issues.
Patients and HCPs want these digital solutions: 80% of users utilising virtual or telehealth services are likely to continue to do so in the future, whilst physicians expect virtual commercial interactions to continue.
The rapid deployment of existing tech played a vital role during the darkest days of the COVID-19 crisis. We must now keep up that momentum, using COVID-19 as a springboard to deliver the digitised healthcare systems that Europe needs. I urge the industry, governments, and healthcare professionals to work together to achieve this.
This blog is part of the MedTech Forum 2021 blog series.