The consumerization of connected medical devices is requiring traditional MedTech companies to rethink the customer experience.
This is the first in a new series of MedTech posts that you’ll be seeing regularly on the blog. We’ll be exploring relevant topics impacting the medical technology space from a personal perspective and offering our recommendations on the ways MedTech companies can build on their substantial expertise to compete in today’s disrupted market.
When my father died suddenly from a heart attack, I couldn’t help but wonder if a connected device that monitored his heart health and identified early warning signs could have extended his life.
A multitude of studies are underway to examine the impact of consumer health devices like the Apple Watch. Knowing that the ease of accessibility and greater personal health engagement may lead to earlier medical interventions and better patient outcomes has evolved my thinking. I encourage my friends and family to examine if this new wave of devices is a good fit for them and their personal health journey.
A fundamental shift in healthcare
Over the last three to five years, there’s been a fundamental shift in healthcare. Patients now expect to have control of their health data, and they want personalized support to meet their health and wellness goals. Accenture research found that they recognize that using wearable health devices to monitor glucose, heart rate, physical activity, sleep or weight helps with understanding their health condition (75 percent), their overall quality of care (69 percent) and engagement with their health (73 percent). To meet this new demand, the consumer market has begun to offer connected devices with capabilities that used to be available only through healthcare providers and expensive medical equipment – for diagnostic, treatment and monitoring purposes.
The Apple Watch is one device everyone is talking about. It offers notifications when your heart rate is unusually high or low, or if you’re experiencing irregular rhythms. There’s even an ECG app that can record waveform, results and any symptoms you enter. It can also detect falls and alert emergency services. Developers of health and fitness apps can integrate them with the HealthKit framework to give users an even broader array of tools to track their wellness data.
Another connected device I think has huge potential is the KardiaMobile from AliveCor. This device, when connected to an App on your smartphone, lets you take a medical-grade ECG. And it’s small enough that you can slip it in your pocket.
Whether people are gamifying their fitness or weight loss journey or tracking clinical markers such as their blood sugar level, these devices are changing people’s lives for the better. My colleague Stefan Casillo told me about an acquaintance of his who lost 40 pounds and improved his health by competing with family members on daily step count challenges. Fun to use and easy to integrate into our daily life, these devices are forcing MedTech companies to play catch up.
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What does this mean for MedTech companies?
While it’s exciting to witness how quickly these new technologies are being embraced by healthy and sick consumers, it can be a challenge for traditional MedTech companies to compete.
Consumer-facing companies understand how to create delightful, engaging and convenient experiences, and they already have the commercial marketing and distribution channels in place to be able to ramp up their sales. They’re also rapidly gaining the medical expertise that used to be the domain of companies in the medical technology space.
The MedTech sector, on the other hand, is highly regulated and complex. It has traditionally focused on clinical patient outcomes, healthcare efficacy and reducing the overall cost of healthcare. Development cycles for new products have tended to be long. And, in the US especially, there’s always the question of payment. Who pays for therapeutics and services—consumers, insurers or a government payer, such as Medicaid or Medicare? And how much should they cost? It often differs from state to state and country to country.
It's time to embrace a new mindset
Common questions I hear from MedTech companies are around how they should tackle product development of this new type of device going forward. Should they develop new products in-house, find a partner to help them or take an entirely different path such as using a licensing model? In each case, the answer varies depending on the therapeutic area and the nature of the device.
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When you know who they are, it’s easier to design a product that meets their needs and develop a payment model that fits that scenario.
Look at your existing product portfolio and consider how you could humanize product design or add additional informational features to increase value.
Traditional MedTech development cycles cannot compete in the fast-paced world of consumer tech, so it’s critical that you become more agile and more efficient. For example, take a complementary portfolio view or think about the class of your device.
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Your MedTech company has an opportunity to compete differently by developing devices that enable humanized remote care. You are well positioned to build on your core and grow new pathways.
Stay tuned for more posts on how to navigate the complexities and challenges in the MedTech space.