Patient empowerment is key to the future of medtech

EY sponsors EU Medtech event

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Are medtech companies ready for patient empowerment? This was a fundamental question that dominated both the main plenary session, “Medtech and the embrace of design thinking,” at the European MedTech Forum (#MTF2016) in Brussels on 2 December 2016, and the parallel session sponsored by EY on “Upcoming generation of mobile and e-health tools.”

It’s time to embrace design thinking when it comes to medtech

A growing demand for transparency, increasing consumer engagement and new patterns of consumer behavior (largely stemming from access to mobile networks and data) are challenging medtech companies to transform the way in which they design, market and deliver their products and services.

One of the key themes that emerged was the need to put patients at the center of any thinking. As a designer, making a functional product is no longer enough; products need to do more to cater to the unique needs of patients.

On average, it takes five to seven years for a medical device to get to market. As a result, medtech companies need to be forward-thinking when it comes to design. Something that may seem improbable or impossible today could be exactly what patients need in 10 years’ time.

Other issues debated were the cost and systems of payment, the need for more public disclosure of clinical trial results, the need for treatments to be helpful and safe but also satisfying to the patient, and the role of the regulator when medtech companies are looking to be more patient centric.

Additionally, there was a discussion on the need to focus more on product design and adapt it to an individual’s need. Wearable technology, serious gaming and live surgery with assistance from a distance are seen also as key trends that will affect product design and help to advance health care.

The next generation of mobile and e-health tools put patients first

Design thinking, wearable technology and gaming were themes that carried over into a parallel session, “Upcoming generation of mobile and e-health tools,” sponsored by EY.

EY’s Lucien De busscher paraphrased award-winning choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui when he said: “We need to fail fast and often. It’s only by owning our mistakes that we will learn from them.”

As one panelist emphasized, medtech design only works if an organization is “ridiculously fast, extremely cost efficient, and values passion and impact more than money.” The panel also agreed that putting patients first was the primary consideration. For example, making the home — and home care — at the center of medicine and health care, and using technology to do it, benefits patients as well as health care systems.

However, there was a debate regarding the “currency” for measuring success. Is it data, or care? While some believe it is care, EY’s De busscher argued that regulators may not agree. As the European Union’s (EU) Medical Device Regulation (MDR) creeps closer to reality, medical device companies will have to navigate the sweeping changes across the medical device value chain — from design and labeling to clinical trials and quality management. In this context, data may become the driving force.

That then raises the question of who owns the data? Some on the panel believed it should be the patient, but there are difficulties with that premise. Patients often have no idea what to do with the data, and sharing data more broadly with patients makes it at high risk for malware and hacking. Ultimately, a legislative framework is needed that provides appropriate guidance on if and how data can be shared to achieve the best outcomes for patients without strangling innovation.

Get ready for patient power to dominate decision-making

Whether the medical community is ready or not, patient empowerment is quickly becoming the primary driver of new product and service development.

Medtech companies that continue to use traditional thinking and process in their product development will struggle for success as competitors take advantage of next generation thinking and processes, and the latest in mobile technology and e-health, to produce products that are closer to patients’ expectations and needs.

Medtech companies will be better served by putting patients at the center of every aspect of the value chain, and considering the improbable today in preparation for the possible of tomorrow.

Download our full report, EU Medical Device Regulation report 2016