For the global healthcare systems, the COVID pandemic was a major inflection point which shook the system to its core. It brought out an obvious weakness: the need to drastically transform and update current practices, procedures and equipment used to provide patient care.

GE Healthcare published a report in June 2021 on the impact of the COVID pandemic, and how it changed the way the healthcare industry functions. We’ll look at the report with a lens on how the Medtech industry in particular can play its part in the ongoing healthcare transformation. How can they partner with the healthcare industry and actively contribute to a better healthcare ecosystem, globally?

GE talks about a ‘data-driven health ecosystem.’ This implies that all partners within the value chain share and collaborate with a common data set, whether it comes from the Medtech’s manufacturing operation or from the broader supply chain.

The GE document points out the areas where technology has played a critical role during the pandemic and how it is technology which will usher in the future of an efficient, organized, mobile and all pervasive healthcare infrastructure. There are four major aspects to be considered if healthcare is to improve and be ready, not only for future pandemic-like situations, but also be more effective in reach, with numbers of cases dealt with more intelligence than it is today.

  • Apply the principles of Intelligent Efficiency: For better healthcare, having the right information available in real time is extremely critical to efficient care. This can be achieved through centralized data management and diagnostic tools which not only record a metric, but provide a thorough analysis based on embedded AI algorithms, allowing doctors and medical professionals to treat more patients in the same amount of operational hours. Real time displays of patient data, collected and controlled by a central database, which communicates constantly with individual recording devices creating a complete history of a given patient, may drastically improve the quality of healthcare offered. The use of AI in scheduling and the use of portable and highly accurate diagnostic tools directly contribute to the mobility and efficiency of care rendered. When implemented together, these measures have the ability to make healthcare intelligently efficient: AI does the heavy lifting and IoT tools provide real-time visibility. In order to become more efficient, healthcare professionals need Medtech partners to create products which meet the need to be mobile, intelligent and agile. Applying AI to provide accurate diagnosis and recommendations, in real-time across multiple patients, with a central information management structure allow even remote locations to leverage the modern and intelligent technology at play.
  • Leverage technology to Reduce Burnout: Digitization of reports and comparative analysis with suggested findings, when automated through application of deep learning and AI, can help medical professionals avoid cumbersome data entry and focus on imparting care. This would mean better care and a larger number of patients covered. Just by the incorporating intelligence in regular diagnostic tools, burnout can drastically be reduced in medical professionals. 
  • Expand the Care Ecosystem with Virtual Care and Telemedicine: In 2020 alone, the US CDC saw a jump of 154% in the number of telemedicine visits in response to Covid restrictions. With virtual care extending even to ICUs, the potential of providing high quality care to the remotest of locations is now a reality. Decentralization of care emanates from virtual care, which directly extends the reach. Added to the ability of technological tools and IT applications to enable remote clinical training and support, the possible reach and impact can be massive.
  • Improve Data Management to Strengthen Clinical Decisions: As with all industries affected by the pandemic, it is evident that healthcare too needs to amend the way in which data is harnessed, analyzed and used for better, faster and more accurate decision making. A way of doing that is through the use of cloud-based data management systems, connected mobile devices which are IoT enabled, and through devices which utilize AI to provide more accurate patient information as it is generated in real time. It is estimated that nearly 54% of hospitals don’t even have enough data to optimize their costs, which is ironic as hospitals collect vast amounts of data for each patient under their care. The remediation in this scenario is to digitalize the operations and implement tools which remove information silos and create a homogenous data pool, which is intelligent and captures all patient information through connected diagnostics, automating data requisition and analysis to suggest better outcomes to patient’s conditions. 

Lessons for Medtech Manufacturers

The GE document paints a clear picture of what the future of healthcare looks like: it is efficient, agile, connected and self-optimizing. These words should sound familiar to any medical device manufacturer, simply because this is what digital transformation means, or at least should mean to them!

In order to make their products more efficient, more intelligent and more user friendly, medical device manufacturers need to examine their existing operations and ask questions like:

Is my operation delivering at optimal efficiency?

Is my R&D able to incorporate intelligence into the products being designed, through well-established feedback loops within and beyond the operation?

Is my New Product Introduction cycle time better or worse than my competitors’?

Is the software on my products making it intelligent, validated in the right manner, within the regulatory constraints posed?

Is my operation equipped with, and fully utilizing AI, IoT AR/VR, Cloud and other Industry 4.0 technologies?

If the answer to these questions comes back as a resounding ‘NO’, perhaps you need to look at the very foundation of digitalization, which is to deploy a modern MES platform, specific to medical device manufacturing, at the center of your transformation endeavor. 

With the right MES in place, integration with enterprise applications and process automation is established to unify the enterprise. The MES creates feedback loops, which allow information pertaining to existing products reach the R&D teams. With a single version of truth, and added operational context, design is aided with data which may enable shortening of the prototyping cycle, thereby directly improving NPI.

Competition drives innovation; with the augmentation of electronics and software into medical device manufacturing, the need to have validation processes that respond to faster time to market are critical. Automated validation streamlines a laborious process. The ‘right’ MES allows validation of product, process and embedded software to happen in an automated manner, which again contributes directly to faster NPI. It also can improve the overall quality of the product, instilling quality as part of the manufacturing DNA rather than existing for the sake of regulatory compliance.

MES is the application which brings AI into manufacturing, enables IoT data enrichment and establishes the concept of virtual twins through VR and predictive maintenance through AR.

For Medtech manufacturers, MES allows a straightforward adoption of Industry 4.0. The pandemic brought challenges, but also innovation. The transformation of healthcare triggered or expedited by the pandemic will only gain momentum, with the industry demanding better products, which are more intelligent and deliver on the needs of personalization, data-driven decision making and intelligent devices. To enable digital transformation in the healthcare industry, Medtech device manufacturers can turn to a proven solution: a modern MES.