The COVID-19 crisis has been felt more acutely in healthcare than perhaps any other industry. The pressure to address the immediate threat to people’s lives led to the redeployment of doctors and nurses, reducing capacity elsewhere in the system. Meanwhile lockdowns led to a vast increase in remote diagnostics and the closure of outpatient clinics.
A more positive outcome, however, has been the increase in the speed at which innovation has been adopted. It is no exaggeration to say that innovation which, before the pandemic, would have taken a decade to adopt, is now being fast tracked into healthcare systems – particularly if it achieves the dual goal of better clinical outcomes and reduced cost.
Predicting the future is a risky business at the best of times but there are some clear trends emerging in healthcare that pose important considerations for the medical technology (MedTech) industry in 2023 and beyond.
Balancing telemedicine solutions
The pandemic triggered an increase in telemedicine solutions, with consultations largely moved to virtual platforms. This helped healthcare professionals (HCPs) remain safe but impacted healthcare delivery as many conditions simply cannot be identified via video or phone calls.
Bernard Ross, CEO and founder, Sky Medical Technology
Many healthcare systems have since realised that some patients struggle to get appointments or become frustrated with remote diagnostics. 2023 will see this trend begin to reverse in favour of a hybrid model. Telemedicine and remote diagnostics will continue, but the future will focus on balancing convenience with patients’ needs for face-to-face appointments.
There will be an increased use of remote monitoring devices and MedTech that can be self-applied and managed at home. MedTech that allows patients to manage their conditions remotely reduces the need for frequent check-ups. The deployment of clinical grade monitoring equipment has the power to make care more efficient, providing treatment to patients only when they need it.
Remote treatment will also increase, enabling hospital-to-home care to support overwhelmed front-line staff. Patients can address issues in the home that previously would have required a hospital visit, helping keep patients experiencing delays for surgery comfortable while they await treatment.
The necessity driven by the pandemic has encouraged faster and more frictionless adoption of MedTech. This move has been supported by HCPs who recognise that only technology can effectively bridge the gap between increased medical demand and limited budgets.
There is a good reason why healthcare services have traditionally been slow to adopt new treatments and standards of care: changes need to demonstrably deliver better clinical outcomes to be adopted. This can be hard to prove and takes time to demonstrate. When most new treatments were pharmaceutical, there was always a concern around potential long term side effects, particularly if a new treatment was only marginally better than the previous standard of care.
But as the pace of evolution within the MedTech industry quickens, treatments can demonstrate real patient benefit far more quickly. MedTech solutions can speed up healing by double or more, and several have adapted or modified medical techniques in new formats or applications. This will only increase in 2023 and beyond.
Healthcare will not be immune to the growing global climate crisis, and 2023 will see more emphasis on sustainable solutions that drive a more circular healthcare system. MedTech companies will increasingly be challenged to demonstrate compliance with high levels of sustainability as part of them becoming a preferred supplier. Clinicians will also look to MedTech innovation which provide solutions that are good for the planet – not just those that do less harm.
Less supply chain vulnerability
Whether it was the shortage of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) medicine for menopausal women or the fall-out from the lack of suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line staff, this year demonstrated the critical importance of a robust and effective supply chain in healthcare. Systems need to deliver continuity of care in an unpredictable world, particularly ensuring drugs and MedTech solutions that help people heal are always available.
A final key trend of 2023 will be that MedTech companies are required to prove that they can ensure continuity of supply in all circumstances, especially as healthcare systems take less of a ‘just-in-time’ approach to the delivery of critical products.
A world of opportunity
As MedTech further matures in 2023 and beyond, there will be challenges and opportunities for the industry. Better solutions for patient care that can demonstrably tick the dual boxes of improved outcomes and reduced cost will enjoy less barriers to adoption. This adoption, in turn, will provide additional opportunities to deliver value to healthcare systems and challenge the standard of care status quo across both inpatient and outpatient treatments.
At the same time the industry needs to consider important new challenges such as a robust and reliable supply chain as well as demonstrating improved sustainability over time. If the industry continues to showcase its potential to deliver better clinical and financial outcomes, 2023 and beyond will remain the age of MedTech.
Bernard Ross is CEO and founder of Sky Medical Technology (Sky). A serial entrepreneur, Ross has more than 20 years’ senior experience at private and public board level across multiple industries including pharmaceutical, technology development and FMCG. Ross was former Head of International Development at CMI plc, Senior Vice President, Cardiovascular of Bioaccelerate Inc. (BACL) and former CEO of Innacardio Inc.