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Medical technology has disruptive power to transform healthcare

Dr Chinmaya P. Chigateri
Wednesday, July 20, 2022, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

With digitalization impacting almost every aspect of our everyday lives, it was inevitable that this impact would find a profound footing in healthcare. From screening and diagnosing to treatment and aftercare, medical technology plays a pivotal role in the healthcare ecosystem in the present day. Over the years, medical devices have been integral in reducing the incidence of disease owing to early diagnosis, better disease management and drastically improving the healthcare system overall.

With the emergence of Covid-19, we saw the vulnerability of the healthcare industry. We also witnessed medical technology transform and come into full force and bridge the gap between healthcare providers and patients. In a country like India, this is very advantageous as patients who are located remotely can consult specialists in larger cities that would otherwise require cumbersome travel or may have been inaccessible.  Advancements in technology in diagnostics and monitoring have positively impacted to reduce the cost of care and enhanced overall community wellness.

Recently, considering the potential of the MedTech industry and our country-specific limitations of infrastructure and systems, several MNCs as well as start-ups have focused their innovations on point of care diagnostics and patient monitoring to better suit Indian markets. They have focused on using cost-effective, innovative techniques for devices with an aim to make them more affordable while still meeting standard requirements. Products have been designed without the added frills drastically reducing costs while actively retaining core function. They have tailor-made devices to be easy to operate making them deployable in regions lacking skilled manpower. However, certain shortcomings are seen with start-ups not having the knowledge or understanding of the process of clinical trials and related regulatory challenges.

Medical technology currently transforming the healthcare industry includes artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, wearables, and robotics.
    • Artificial Intelligence (AI) reduces medical professional requirements so that their expertise can be utilized elsewhere and is gradually becoming an inherent part of healthcare systems globally. Radiology has been the most welcoming of AI.  While clinical decision tools assist doctors in their diagnoses, treatment planning, mental health, medication, and other needs by providing immediate information at their fingertips. AI-enabled applications will help physicians appropriately identify those patients requiring extra attention and provide personalized treatments at an early stage. Overall, it is known to reduce work time exponentially and have high accuracy, and providing improved services.
    • Virtual Reality (VR) enables both the healthcare professional and the patient to interact with a simulated environment. It helps in medical training where it is constantly used for surgery simulations, as well as for patient rehabilitation and pain. VR simulators provide an environment that is safe for surgeons to enable acclimatization and confidence doing away with the traditional method of training. It also helps in medical marketing and to bring about disease awareness.
    • Augmented Reality (AR) helps improve information perception. Here the user doesn’t lose touch with reality.
    • Wearables that help monitor health are convenient and provide constant real-time patient data to the healthcare providers. Heart rate, levels of activity, and sleep can all be monitored.
    • Robotics help to shorten the time taken and have transformed surgeries and streamlined supply delivery and disinfection. Robotic arms are known to mimic the hands of a surgeon with the precision of a higher scale, magnification, and 3D view.

The Covid-19 pandemic put the health system at the centre stage with unparalleled demand for extraordinary interventions, which brought the life sciences and healthcare industry to the brink of large-scale disruption. In addition to rapidly transforming a traditionally high people touch point industry, the future of healthcare is expected to be driven by radically interoperable data, an integrated system of consumer-driven care in which transformational technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, cloud storage, augmented and virtual reality are poised to play a huge role. Data sharing, equitable access, scientific advances, and consumers who are empowered as well as behaviour changes will further bring about changes transforming existing healthcare to well-being and prevention-based from treatment-based. This will help new roles and processes to emerge dissolving existing traditional boundaries.

The impact of Covid-19 has brought organizations to adopt and add digital capabilities to their functions, which is expected to continue to rise, as demand for integrated healthcare solutions are part of the ‘new normal’. With changing scenarios, the MedTech industry is likely to collaborate with technology companies to address the increasingly changing needs and expectations of consumers.

Specifically, digital transformations at the intersection of MedTech and care delivery can help in:
    • Integrating insights from medical device data with patient health records
    • Improving workflows related to the use of medical device products for patients, and informing workflows for providers, and care teams with insights from these products
    • Generate evidence of clinical results achieved through the usage of medical equipment
    • Generating analytics for hospitals to measure patient outcomes and improve operational gaps related to devise use
    • Creating unified patient records by ingesting and integrating disparate health data from a patient, including insights from digital devices.

As a result of this, providers and care teams can access a complete view of patients at different stages of their care journey, creating a win-win for everyone, most importantly for patients.

The inclusion of health information technologies has resulted in yielding improved patient safety by reducing medication errors, reducing adverse drug reactions, and improving compliance to practice guidelines. There is no doubt that MedTech is bound to shape the entire healthcare sector and has become an integral and important tool for improving healthcare quality and safety. We are looking at a transformation that is dramatic and driven by novel business models, technologies that are freshly emerging, and consumers who are highly engaged.

The MedTech market in India though nascent promises exponential growth. We owe this to our ever-increasing aging population, government policies and regulations that are now more favourable, medical tourism, and health insurance. The Government has taken up several initiatives supporting this sector.  With the release of new schemes and plans for MedTech parks in line and certain tax exemptions, India will undoubtedly emerge as a MedTech hub in the near future. The focus should be on cost-effective products and technology-driven solutions that could improve the lives of people. Companies should aim towards manufacturing products ideal for the Indian market that are affordable. They should also work towards bringing about awareness of these products. The Government at its end could further provide a regulatory landscape that is favourable for this sector, attracting higher investment and encouraging international players to be a part of the domestic market.

MedTech will be a crucial driver of value-based care enhancing services and enabling highly predictive, personalized, and preventive services. High-end data analytics will be used by companies, which will work closely with the end-user, to improve patient outcomes. MedTech companies will also partner with technology companies that are consumer-focused to benefit from their experiences in brand development advanced analytics and customer engagement.

The pandemic has laid the foundation for healthcare to be highly integrated, patient-centric, and value-based, bringing forward a digital healthcare system enabled by MedTech. Currently, MedTech companies are positioned well to steer this vision further along with partnerships to optimize success, delivering necessary patient benefits.

Medical Technology is disruptive and will definitely shape the entire healthcare industry.

(The author is Director & CEO,  HealthMinds Consulting Pvt Ltd)


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