Three major med-tech trends to watch

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John Korry
John Korry

What will be the three most important medical technology trends to watch in 2014? Based on Accenture's research and analysis, the trends are connectivity, consolidation and transformation—each driven by the digital transformation of businesses and consumer behaviors.

Digital Connectivity will bring opportunities to build new business models and revenue streams, shed costs from healthcare systems and establish true disease-prevention franchises. These franchises will need an all-encompassing approach to infectious-disease management, including developing products to treat diseases and develop business plans to market and sell them profitably.

Consolidation will reduce costs, complexities and risks, and also accelerate the number of mergers and acquisitions.

Transformation will involve new types of buyers, downward pricing pressures, and shifts in risk from hospitals to larger medical-equipment technology companies to integrate more end-to-end processes, equipment and services. This shift will cause med-tech companies to transform themselves as they reorganize, change selling and pricing approaches and enter new service and data-driven markets.

Now let's explore these three trends in more detail.

Connectivity

Broader interoperability in health information pipelines

Progress has been made in switching patient information from a paper-based system to digital electronic health records. These databases can easily house, update or query records quickly with fewer errors. But many of these databases still reside in individual silos requiring extra work to share data with outside parties such as insurance providers, pharmacies, medical specialists and patients.

Furthermore, there will continue to be shortcomings in the type of data being exchanged. In 2014, digital electronic health and insurance records will be shared more often, but exchanges with providers outside an organization, and exchanges of clinical care summaries and medication lists, will often remain limited.

In 2014 the goal will be for this data to become an integrated information pipeline accessible by all vested parties. Government regulations have made headway in this direction with initiatives designed, for example, to allow patients online access to records to see and review medical data across several health agencies.

Once analytics tools get employed to organize the data in 2014, there will be significant growth opportunities in the medical-device market. A system such as this will boost medical coordination and improve patient care.

Creating these pipelines will require storage, cloud, business intelligence, networking, standardized interfaces, mobile applications and security. Privacy concerns will continue to be a major stumbling block for sharing data.

No current vendor has an all-encompassing integrated product, though many strive to create one. The next generation of health-information exchange solutions are expected to reach the market by the middle of next year.

Growth in use of home care and remote monitoring

Escalating demand for admitting and re-admitting patients to hospitals will continue to drive home care as an option for chronic patients and the elderly. These people will seek more independence and a better quality of life. New technological advances will make at-home monitoring of patient health less obtrusive, simpler to use and more accurate. Remote monitoring technologies, including cardiac rhythm management, blood pressure and glucose devices, will become more pervasive in 2014.

Compared with treatment in a doctor's office or hospital, remote monitoring often provides a less expensive option and avoids the risk of a hospital re-admission. Opportunities will grow this year for manufacturers to create more sophisticated digital devices that feed into decision-support tools. Many medical organizations will become more interested in remote-monitoring tools that support clinical analytics.

More types of smarter medical devices delivered to market

A diverse number of smart medical devices will be built next year propelled by less expensive component prices and sophisticated technology advances. Recent examples include a special surgical knife that can detect cancer, adjustable prosthetics for amputees, respiration-tracking clothing and highly sensitive digital stethoscopes. Demand for such devices will grow in 2014 as medical professionals work more closely with manufacturers to guide product development.

Consolidation

Higher demand for integrated vs. stand-alone products

Buyers of medical devices, such as hospitals, laboratories and doctor's offices, will be looking for something more than stand-alone products this year. They will want manufacturers to address a larger spectrum of integrated, cost-effective care such as integrating diagnostic imaging products.

They will seek standardized products that can address the full spectrum of patient care including records, insurance, finance, patient relations and cost-benefit analysis. The goal in 2014 will be to alleviate an overburdened medical system that has become more taxed as a growing number of citizens retire.

Medical institutions will require technology that can efficiently process larger groups of patients without sacrificing quality. Comprehensive, consolidated and integrated products will be in demand, as will suppliers who take an active role in their customers' operations by sharing risks and rewards equally.

Initial collaboration will occur within standardized processes. New technologies will be evaluated aimed at creating a more seamless fit with existing treatment options already in use.

Transformation

More expansive access to online medical research and development

In 2014 the amount of clinical data available on the Internet will continue to circumvent traditional scientific research methods, causing more industry transformation. Companies and individuals will continue to have extensive access to online healthcare research. Powered by analytics engines, finding and synthesizing these large, publicly available databases of online knowledge will continue to speed medical discoveries, reduce internal research and lower development costs.

During 2014 and for the next several years, there will be more growth opportunities in the medical-device market for manufacturers well-versed in web applications, business intelligence, analytics, networking and digital technologies and applications. Healthcare service providers that can become data brokers to hospitals, medical professionals and patients will also be in greater demand.


The growth in connectivity, consolidation and transformation in the medical device market means that these manufacturers will have a larger, more active role to play in the overall healthcare market next year. This will occur out of necessity as the traditional market rapidly changes and old practices no longer become sufficient.

New business models and more integrated products will be a pervasive market reality. Manufacturers should take steps now to capitalize on these digitally-enabled growth opportunities.


John Korry is the managing director of Accenture's medical equipment technology practice.

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