InterSystems Ireland’s John Kelly says the medtech sector can embrace data platforms to capitalise on the digital transformation wave.
Some 14,295 patent applications were filed with the European Patent Office (EPO) in the field of medical technology in 2020. As new models of care continue to emerge, digital healthcare technology will spread right along the patient pathway and become an important driver of improved outcomes and higher efficiency.
It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that private investors and venture capitalists are seeking promising opportunities to invest in the medtech sector.
Indeed, the medtech sector has seen significant investment in recent years, reflecting the widely accepted potential of digital innovation. According to the EY Pulse of the Industry report 2020, financing levels in 2019-2020 were more than double the previous 12 months even in the face of Covid-19, as despite a drop as the pandemic took hold, R&D spending had recovered.
Yet, while there is no shortage of data for medtech innovators to work with, challenges in exchanging and using data between different systems and devices are holding back many innovations from quickly realising their clinical and market potential. The impact of these challenges shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, they can severely impact the scalability of a solution.
Instead, it’s essential that medtech solutions are able to share data with other systems and devices and interpret that data to improve patient safety and clinical outcomes. Known as interoperability, this is ultimately what facilitates care coordination, drives efficiency and enables innovators to bring their device to market.
A driving force for change
As both clinicians and patients become more accepting of digital health solutions, ‘first mover advantages’ are highly likely in several medtech categories. Therefore, it’s little surprise that time-to-market is seen as a key determinant of success.
That said, many medtech companies are compelled to move rapidly because they need to generate enough sales revenue to become self-sustaining or to reach the next milestone with an investor. As a consequence of these pressures, many medtech innovators go to market with a minimum viable product (MVP), which they refine based on feedback from early adopters.
As interoperability is complex and not as immediately compelling as the user interface, hand-coding a point-to-point interface with initial customers’ legacy systems can appear to be a quick way of addressing the immediate need for integration.
However, as the number of customers for a solution grows, point-to-point interfaces become increasingly difficult to maintain. As such, bespoke development is likely to be a false economy that inhibits scalability.
Since the one constant in healthcare is change, fixed integrations will need to be continuously amended and tested. This is necessary whenever workflows change, source systems are upgraded or replaced, or more data sources are added. Consequently, bespoke integration can really hinder a medtech business’ growth, profitability and appeal to investors.
Why building on a data platform could be the answer
Building applications on a data platform which encompasses interoperability, the ability to orchestrate multiple interfaces, high-speed data storage, and ‘in-flight’ data transformation, is a more effective alternative approach.
This strategy allows medtech innovators to address a much greater number of interoperability use cases with a single platform, particularly when combined with the ability to provide real-time analytics such as insight into usage patterns and performance.
Additionally, a unified platform eliminates the need to integrate multiple technologies and toolsets. This not only reduces the amount of code that needs to be developed and tested, but can also significantly reduce the time-to-market for new innovations.
The impact of meaningful interoperability
Without meaningful interoperability, it will be very difficult for medtechs to demonstrate the scalability needed to make them investment-friendly. Being able to demonstrate that their solution is built on a sound, flexible technology stack and can scale beyond its original use case will only increase its attractiveness to investors.
Consequently, it’s vital that medtech businesses can demonstrate interoperability to get to market quickly and generate the buzz needed for further investment.
With Deloitte identifying interoperability as “arguably the biggest challenge for medtech, including complying with various national and international standards and protocols around the exchange and use of data”, it is clear that this needs to be a core focus for medtechs planning for future success and widespread adoption.
By John Kelly
John Kelly is a sales manager at healthcare data management company InterSystems Ireland.