MedTech Needs Cross-Industry Expertise to Succeed
“The pace of change in medical technology continues to accelerate,” said Flex President of Health Solutions John Carlson at the 2017 MedTech Conference. The good news is, “most problems in one industry have already been solved by another industry." This highlights the importance of partnerships and cross-industry experience that can bring existing, proven solutions to new fields, and support the pace of innovation.
Carlson spoke as part of a CEOs Unplugged panel at the MedTech Conference from AdvaMed in San Jose, CA, on “Managing Lean, Delivering Big, Staying Ahead of the Innovation Curve.” Representatives from Johnson & Johnson and 3M joined him on the panel moderated by Rupam Chaudhury of Tata Consultancy Services.
"We are no longer in a world of 10-year medical product development cycles," said panelists. Today, health consumers want medical advancements to arrive as quickly as the latest smartphone model. That said, government certification and safety testing are still essential to ensure that benefits outweigh any potential harm.
(L to R): Cindy Kent, John Carlson, Euan Thompson
Carlson noted that patients today expect medical devices to be as intuitive and polished as consumer technology products, while still meeting clinical testing and safety requirements. Medical companies can speed up product development by partnering with manufacturers that can help with design, NPI, or even data analytics. Traditional medical device companies use their disease state, clinical needs, and regulatory expertise, while their partners help deliver technologically innovative products and advanced manufacturing.
Panelist Euan Thompson, head of R&D for DePuy Synthes (a J&J division) noted that prioritization and operational excellence are key success factors for J&J, adding that their partner ecosystem provides tremendous value in bringing new devices and services to market.
Many changes taking place in medical technology today mirror the manufacturing changes the automotive industry faced 25 years ago, or 15 years ago for networking hardware. In those industries, devices moved from custom solutions for specific scenarios to more standardized products. The result was greater efficiency and flexibility with pre-integrated subassembly components that could be combined in different ways.
Flex booth at The MedTech Conference
As Cindy Kent, president and general manager at 3M’s Infection Prevention Division noted, Klaus Schwab's book "The Fourth Industrial Revolution" explains how companies will no longer own the complete product development process from soup to nuts. Instead, medical companies need to retool their forces to capitalize on key strengths. This could mean utilizing partners with expertise in development, production and supply chain fulfillment, while they focus on the patient needs, she said.
At the same time, a deluge of data is overwhelming health care providers. Pharmaceutical companies are trying to manage some 18 million data points a day. And today, this data is flowing into millions of incompatible silos, as many providers engage in platform land-grabs.
“Everyone is trying to win and monetize their data platforms, with single drug apps and proprietary devices,” said Carlson. “What gets lost is the individual patient, and the likelihood of a patient actually using multiple apps is close to zero. Once there is an open architecture platform available, you’ll see the connection points across the devices, from Fitbits to Electronic Medical Records. When that’s integrated, you’ll see the tipping point. You’ll see the revolution.”
While modern healthcare is saving more lives than ever and advancing global life expectancy, new technologies and cross-industry innovation promise to create new ways to help people live healthy lives around the world.