Top trends in medical device manufacturing
The Medtech industry appears to be enthusiastically embracing the opportunities presented to it by the exploding digital universe. From Big Pharma adopting swallowable devices to improve medication delivery to automated “Internet of Things”-style devices transmitting patient data to remote medical teams, the trends in medical device development are changing the mechanisms and delivery of your future health care services.
The World Health Organization (WHO) surmises that upwards of 30 million people worldwide are in need of prosthetic limbs, but only 20 percent have access to them. A dearth of prosthetists is one part of the problem; lack of resources for traditional fabrication methods is another. 3D printing may be the answer to half of the challenge.
Also known as “additive manufacturing,” the 3D industry has had a significant impact on the medical device sector since the beginning of this century. In 1999, using a patient’s own tissue cells to cover a 3D-printed scaffolding allowed researchers to augment their patient’s insufficient bladder structure. In 2008, the first prosthetic leg – including an articulating knee and ankle – walked across a lab floor. These days, 3D-printed skin grafts, blood vessels, ear molds and bone implants are allowing thousands of patients to live easier lives.
Behavioral health diagnostic tools
Just as Netflix™ algorithms predict your viewing and entertainment options, so will MedTech devices be able to predict your mood, and suggest options to improve it. Using online search data, digital engagement activities and other information gleaned from Internet usage, emerging healthcare devices will track, diagnose and support health care choices.
The ramifications of digital “behavioral health care” support could be enormous, especially for populations with limited access to traditional health care services. Smartphone apps, readily available to anyone with a smartphone and an Internet connection, will gather user data on movement, phone usage, communications, environments and other digital activities to passively evaluate the user’s “wellness behavioral patterns.” Algorithms track the data over time and suggest if changes in behaviors might indicate illness, either physical or mental. When coupled with user surveys, the tool could prove to be a lifesaver for people who don’t always have access to a live, human medical professional.
As in every other industry, economics plays a big part in evolution or retraction. In the medical tech field, cost-cutting efforts from several fronts are also having an impact on how devices will evolve to address future health care concerns.
In 2013, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (which remains in effect until legally repealed) launched a “medical device excise tax” of 2.3 percent on medical devices, as that term is defined by §201(h) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The tax applies to any device intended for human use, including dental equipment and instruments, as well as research-use-only tools. By some reports, over 40 percent of companies have adjusted their operations to reflect the economic changes created by the tax, including reduced investments in R&D, cutting production staff, raising prices or changing suppliers to reduce production costs.
Partly in response to the tax, hospitals are also reviewing how their economics affect their capacity to provide top-quality health care services. Many envision a two-pronged approach, reducing operating costs through smarter investments, and shifting to a value-based purchasing model to extend existing investments as far as possible.
Keeping their customers content keeps these leaders innovating with cost-consciousness in mind, too. For one producer, just switching participants within their supply chains saved them $15 million in 2015.
Big Data is feeding all medical tech industry participants the information they need to streamline today’s innovations into the better performing, less expensive medical devices and systems of the future. There are the top trends in medical device manufacturing.