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Defining Innovation

Two medtech executives who spoke at The MedTech Conference highlighted industry progress along with challenges to tackle.

Image by Pettycon from Pixabay

What’s behind the record-breaking growth shared in EY’s 2019 “Pulse of the Industry” medtech report? Innovation, along with plenty of opportunities to solve some unmet needs.

“We are at an awesome time in terms of innovation,” explained Ashley McEvoy, worldwide chairman, medical devices, Johnson & Johnson. Technology can now reach once-difficult-to-access anatomy, and miniaturization can enable earlier intervention, she pointed out as notable advances.

McEvoy was part of EY’s “Pulse of the Industry” panel discussion held during The MedTech Conference. Moderated by Jim Welch, global medtech leader for EY, the panel also included John Liddicoat, MD, executive vice president and president of Medtronic’s Americas region.

Acknowledging the growth outlined in EY’s report, McEvoy added that the “reason there is so much growth is that there is so much unmet need.” For instance, “more than five billion people are without access to essential surgery,” she noted. She also pointed out the need for advances in stroke treatments, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgeries, oncolytic viruses, even nondrug GERD treatments.

Progress does need to be made in order to deliver the healthcare data identified as in demand in EY’s report. “We are at the bottom of the S curve in terms of digitization,” McEvoy said, encouraging work toward more collaboration.

Liddicoat said he is “excited about putting the patient front and center” and a “connected environment with the patient at the center.”

Welch pointed out that “digital surgery goes beyond the robotic device.” Added McEvoy: “I give a lot of credit to early pioneers. However, 50% of surgery is still open, and it’s not going away overnight, but digital health is helping to change this and will enable us to improve the standard of care.”

“Many innovations can be augmented by nonmedtech players,” Liddicoat added. He pointed to innovations in diabetes care, case planning, even a pill cam.”

“We’ve done a lot of work in electrophysiology for AFib,” noted McEvoy during the discussion, later explaining that “we’re leveraging that data to change the care pathway for the 33 million patients worldwide with AFib.”

As much as technology innovation is needed, traditional approaches are needed, too. McEvoy said, “I still believe in the having the clinical acumen and the relationship with clinicians. I see it being important in the future, too. What is evolving is the patient journey, and we can create value along that journey.”

Asked Liddicoat: “Meaningful innovation wins, but what systematic changes do we have to make? We know that 30% of the population has multiple comorbidities and that drives 70% of the cost of healthcare. There are changing sites of care—can we collaborate with partners to meet patient outcomes and demands and reimburse clinicians?”

There are some other challenges the industry needs to tackle:

  • Reimbursement. Liddicoat called the fee-for-service model an “unsustainable payment system.”
  • Data aggregation and access. An audience member noted that “data is in different places—how are you bringing data all together?”  Said Welch: “You are highlighting one of the biggest challenges—how do we bring it together and provide access? We are starting to collaborate with nontraditional stakeholders. It is hard to do, and it is a multiyear journey.” Said McEvoy: “The cloud can enable discreet, confidential sharing that remains anonymous. But one company cannot do it by themselves—partnerships are key.”
  • Cybersecurity. “There is a huge shift in the willingness to be open about cybersecurity issues as an industry. We are reaching out proactively to regulators, and we are confident we can be good stewards of data,” said Liddicoat.
    Added McEvoy: “Data when not used correctly can be dangerous. We are no longer a B to B industry. We are now a B to C industry. We have to explain this and help facilitate security and compliance across the ecosystem—That’s our homework.”
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