A Call for Innovation in Healthcare
Addressing Medical Device & Consumer Health Opportunities Revealed by COVID19
The novel coronavirus has now infected more than 5.6 million people globally, and its repercussions will undoubtedly continue to impose lasting changes on the way we live, work, and provide care to our communities. As innovators ourselves, we recognize the opportunity to draw on the lessons-learned from this crisis, which has revealed weaknesses in our existing systems, and has created a lasting demand for new medical devices and consumer health products.
Healthcare now requires a next-generation of medical devices and technologies to meet the challenges of concurrent and post-pandemic medicine. From improving the viability of remote care to resourcefully leveraging new data sources, consumer health and medical device innovators must address these glaringly apparent opportunities exposed by the COVID-19 global health crisis.
I’ve asked our team to don their inventor-caps, channel their inner Steve Jobs, look to the future like Elon Musk, and become problem solvers like Thomas Edison, in order to transform our healthcare system’s existing approach to pandemic preparedness, response and overall patient care.
Our combined cross-discipline experience as industry leaders, researchers, hospital board members, inventive engineers, and medical device development experts has led us to identify these four main solution-categories as crucially suitable for rapid improvement and innovation during and following the COVID-19 pandemic:
1) Seamless Remote Patient Treatment for Our Healthcare System
2) Workplace Health Evaluation Assistance
3) Realtime Data Leveraging to Better Address or Identify Future Public Health Crises
4) Medical Supply Chain Improvement or Inventory Transparency
We urge medical researchers, thinkers, inventors, and problem-solvers around the world to rise to the occasion with ingenuity and improvisation, to tackle these newfound challenges and help shape the future of our healthcare systems.
Product Category: Remote Patient Treatment and Telemedicine
COVID-19 enabled the rapid adoption of many existing Telemedicine models — an unintended and important consequence. As with any newly-introduced technology, this forced beta-experiment revealed necessary revisions in even the most robust existing solutions.
If you are in the process of developing a telemedicine platform, or if you are currently offering an existing product, here are our Team’s best ideas and recommendations for key features and differentiators in next-generation, seamless telemedicine delivery:
In their current state, many telemedicine platforms could operate at a higher level of time-efficiency. A Physician’s time, especially in a global public health crisis, cannot be burdened with simple technical issues, or the effort needed to set up the system and prepare for calls with each patient. It is imperative that the appointment process and patient visit become uninterrupted for both the provider and the recipient of care. Think digital waiting room and confirmation that a patient has checked in and is ready for telemedicine.
Remote evaluation and treatment could be improved by engineering cost effective medical devices that allow clinicians to make data-driven assessments of patient health. Medical IoT Devices like digital stethoscopes, otoscopes, and portable ECG monitors can be used at home, and the results shared remotely with doctors. We envision a time when every house has a telemedicine enabled toolkit in the medicine cabinet. This has been evidenced by the proliferation of digital health solutions that support telemedicine, such as Medwand and Aidar Health. Comprehensive toolkits such as these not only enable conversation and visual contact with your doctor, but also allow a provider to take your temperature, assess your blood pressure, listen to your heart, review your ECG, and examine your nose, ears and throat. With modern data collection and storing capabilities, collected results may be prescreened and diagnosed without ever involving a physician.
Now is only the tip of the iceberg for the development of new Telemedicine products. In its current state, even the best platforms only really support video and audio, with no real data (except for very specific treatments) and are not available for the general population. Any new Telemedicine platform must address issues around interoperability, the accuracy and efficacy of remote sensing capabilities, and ultimately the consolidation of data into meaningful platforms for clinicians.
Product Category 2: Commercial and Workplace Health Evaluation Management
We are all painfully aware of the economic challenges posed by necessary COVID-19 workforce restrictions. Governments around the globe face the monumental task of simultaneously protecting both their workforce and future economic prosperities – two competing objectives. Our MedTech community has the unique and previously untapped ability to respond on multiple fronts and offer a solution.
From a workplace perspective, the technologies already exist to confirm our employees are healthy and safe while they continue to operate. Leveraging existing sensors and contextual algorithms for automated, self-service kiosks to monitor biomarkers and healthcare indictors for essential in-person workers will allow human resource managers to respond appropriately in the face of future pandemics. There is therefore an urgent need for a commercially available workforce health evaluation product.
Furthermore, workplace health products must provide clear guidance on use and compliance with best practices, along with well documented data on their accuracy and reliability.
These new medical screening tools, whether implemented at home or in the workplace, must maintain privacy and data protection.
Lastly, this is not a long-term solution if employers have to be the guards at the gate. Employees need to have something that reports the data to a cloud site and lets them know whether they can come back to work. Leveraging geographic and location data could provide information on whether or not they’ve traveled to or are located in a known hot spot area, and could possibly be required to quarantine. Could this be tied in with an automated badge system?
To benefit the consumer –when will an innovator introduce a testing and tracking solution that inspires confidence in returning to restaurants, retailers, grocery stores, and fitness centers? Personal LiDAR and Sonar-based range finders and proximity sensors are currently being implemented in assembly lines to support social distancing measures – but we know the opportunity for improvement extends beyond merely keeping six feet apart, and encompasses everything from new and smart mass-data collection to UV sanitization solutions.
Like many others, our own business has faced the challenge of operationalizing return to work policies. However, these technologies will enable us to remain at a higher level of operational normalcy, and someday, we hope will prevent the need for extreme economic recovery responses altogether.
Product Category 3: Realtime Data for Early Detection and Public Health Solutions
The story of how JP Morgan used Kinsa’s Healthweather(TM) map as the pandemic was starting to predict the spread is fascinating. Now that we are hyper-aware of the potential for an illness to spread rapidly, how do we implement early detection systems? Furthermore, a system like Kinsa’s temperature tracking is one crowd-sourced way for large-scale tracking of early indicators. What other data can we track and aggregate for common good the?
Movement data from Google and Apple devices has been equally interesting, although focused more retrospectively on the impact of lockdowns.
Privacy-focused contact tracing technologies and alert systems will improve our ability to intelligently react to future pandemics. A lack of awareness and inability to make fact-based decisions during this pandemic has taken an enormous toll on our economy and mental health.
Large scale data text analysis of social media posts to develop symptom mapping.
Wearing tech is fine, but smart bed technology will allow for tracking and comparison of disruptive sleep patterns that do not align with regular patterns. Data can then be compared with patterns that also more closely align with disease. Our experience with smart beds leads us to believe that the consumer will soon benefit from commercially available smart beds, with integrated sensors for temperature, movement tracking, and more.
Product Category 4: Medical Supply Chain Improvement or Inventory Transparency
As some of our medical device colleagues know, the global supply chain disruption was profound, and in some ways, continues. As we think about developing our next products, just as the FDA implemented UDI to track devices, the medical device industry will be asked to monitor the inventory of their products more closely to support their customers and provide reassurance of supply availability.
Direct management of personal protective equipment was of extreme concern early in the pandemic. Just last month, I participated in a conversation with a member of the Joint Chief’s of Staff related to supply chain logistics for PPE, ventilators, and other critical pandemic-related medical equipment. Existing supply chain management systems, like Neptune PPE, took action to provide this cross-hospital transparency during the crisis. We think the next generation of supply chain management should include:
The transparent tracking of critical medical device equipment (PPE, for example) must be performed better, from raw materials to post-production.
RFID smart cabinets could inform supply-transparency-dashboards like Neptune PPE, allowing for accurate data on real-time levels not only across hospital departments, but all medical centers and regions.
Building a supply chain that is resilient against future pandemics is key. This includes the sourcing of all parts, particular protection of supply chain employees, and proper mechanisms for ensuring clean and sanitized packages.
Overall, these challenges have caused some of us to re-think the way we develop products for healthcare and they represent incredible opportunities for MedTech innovators. It is crucial that we learn from the behavioral patterns in this pandemic, and are prepared to capture them with smart technology the next time around. If you have ideas to address these or other challenges in healthcare, please contact us. We love to partner on creative solutions to challenging problems!