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The Rise of Contract Development in Medtech

As they wrestle with evolving consumer needs, medical device firms are turning towards contract firms that can both help design their products and develop them. Ximedica's recent acquisition of Bridge Design dovetails with this trend.  

Hope Hopkins

wearable for tongue
This wearable device for the tongue, which is now in development by Helius Medical and Ximedica, helps people overcome mental deficits caused by traumatic brain injury. 

The traditional product development paradigm is being upended in the medtech sector as the benchmarks for usability increase and a growing number of medical devices incorporate consumer-technology-inspired features. The traditional lines between what constitutes a medical device and a consumer device are blurring, leading many established medtech firms to enlist the help of not just contract manufacturers, but contract product developers.

Such contract product development firms are beefing up their own roster of services as well as their footprint. Take Providence, RI-based Ximedica's recent acquisition of Bridge Design (San Francisco) as a case in point. Bridge Design was based in a West Coast medical technology hub known for good design. And as San Francisco edges out Silicon Valley as being the hippest place for tech firms to be, the city is becoming known internationally for attracting some of the best tech talent anywhere. This has given Bridge an advantage when it comes to the arena of mHealth and connected devices.

Remarking on the acquisition of Bridge Design, Aidan Petrie, Ximedica CIO and cofounder states that the company now can offer "a streamlined development approach and a depth of expertise that sets a higher bar for performance--both in our own development efforts and by providing health care solutions that extend beyond traditional boundaries."

And there is no shortage of opportunity outside those traditional boundaries. Take for example an orthopedics company that handles knee replacements. They want to lower costs and speed up patient recovery. Using a digital ecosystem approach, they are leveraging mobile and Web apps targeted at pre- and post-surgery to help with just that. 

Together, the firms has created a holistic design platform that could potentially revolutionize not just how knee replacements are done, but could play an important role in shifting how design and technology is developed as well.

Petrie sees technologies such as these as an example of what is to come in healthcare technology. Many of the healthcare apps and wearable devices of the future will do a lot more than monitor basic activity levels. "We are no longer talking about wellness bands that track things like steps taken, but FDA regulated products where monitoring, diagnosis and treatment are linked for a better experience and outcome," he says. "We are talking about products that will meet the paradigm shift that is occurring in how healthcare is delivered and developed."   

Disruption in Healthcare

The realignment of Ximedica and Bridge Design extends Ximedica's footprint into the new Silicon Valley while beefing up Bridge's ability to help with manufacturing.

It is important for contract design and manufacturing firms to evolve as the bar is raised for medtech product development and the healthcare landscape continues to be redefined. Consider the following data points: 

  • In 2014, venture funding for digital health companies surpassed $4.1 billion, a record amount, nearly the total of all three prior years combined.
  • Having the stamp of FDA regulatory approval increases the value of the technology, a distinct competitive advantage in moving beyond health and wellness and the wearable band.
  • The greater economic efficiencies of outsourcing R&D have become more valuable as part of a variable cost model.
  • The disruptive sea change in payment for healthcare delivery has changed the developmental pipeline for new technologies, creating new opportunities for products that capture the full value of patient-centered care alongside new payment systems.

The Right Context at the Right Time

Future medical device technologies and products will need to respond to these disruptive trends with higher values of performance. These performance values, based upon cultures of learning and collaboration, include:

  • Cost-effectiveness and precision in the human design of medical devices that deliver personalized medical care, with metrics that can be benchmarked.
  • Better risk mitigation in the iterative process of pre-launch products, with an instantaneous on/off switch as products evolve and change focus.
  • Interoperability in secure data management and analysis with FDA-regulated mHealth products.
  • Meaningful patient engagement in the evolving patient-centered world of care, improving access and outcomes and reducing costs.

It was after deeply considering these trends that Ximedica and Bridge Design decided to join forces, with the hope that the new contract development firm could enhance the design process by which new products can meet customer and regulatory requirements. The ultimate intent is that such a contract development firm can help reduce the time and the costs to move to clinical trials and ultimately, to success in the marketplace.

Learn more about cutting-edge medical devices at MEDevice San Diego, September 1-2 and MD&M Philadelphia, October 7-8.

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Hope Hopkins is the director marketing communications at Ximedica (Providence, RI).  ?

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