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The crisis manager helps company overcome crisis to start new growth. Motivation for growth after crisis concept. Post covid-19 era management helping hand concept.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruption in people’s lives and driven many companies to rethink the way they conduct business. While no one can say with certainty what the pandemic will bring for medtech companies, Medtech Insight has consulted industry insiders to see how companies may quickly adapt to new unforeseen demands in the future and become better equipped to address challenges.

Here are 10 strategies for medtech companies to consider:

Supply Chain

Over the last two decades, many medical device companies have sought to cut costs and increase efficiencies by moving their manufacturing abroad. The COVID-19 crisis has revealed vulnerabilities in the supply chain, and, in some cases, caused significant disruption of operations.

Many companies, including non-traditional health care companies, have shifted their production to help meet the surging demand for personal protective equipment, ventilators, test kits and other medical supplies during the crisis. And governments loosened regulations to bring unapproved medical supplies to hospitals to protect both patients and health care workers from being infected with the coronavirus or from spreading the disease. (Also see "COVID-19: Medtronic Shares Ventilator Specs Amid Multi-Industry Efforts To Increase Ventilator Production" - Medtech Insight, 31 Mar, 2020.)

In the future, companies will likely diversify their supply chains, so they are less reliant on sole suppliers. Companies that have been impacted by the disruption will need to look at the resiliency of key suppliers to meet their manufacturing needs, said Glenn Snyder, medtech practice leader for Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Work Closer With Hospitals

The pandemic has created havoc on hospital systems. As hospitals ramped up their efforts to treat thousands of COVID-19 patients while facing additional costs associated with buying personal protective equipment, they have lost significant revenues from cancelled elective procedures and other non-emergency services.

The American Hospital Association estimates that America’s hospitals and health systems will have lost on average $50.7bn per month between 1 March and 30 June, 2020.

During the surge, several hospitals, including Massachusetts General Hospital, joined with industry members to help overcome the supply shortage. Some hospitals repurposed devices and equipment into makeshift breathing devices to help meet the ventilator shortage.

Snyder expects that in the future, medtech companies will work directly with hospitals and health systems to help them produce needed products or parts on site, such as using 3-D technologies to print ventilators. 

“This should help keep the supply chain fluid,” he said. (Also see "The Rise Of Digital – Deloitte Offers COVID-19 Recovery Strategies For Medtechs" - Medtech Insight, 22 Apr, 2020.)

More Collaborations

The pandemic has laid the groundwork for greater cooperation between medtechs and government.

The US Food and Drug Administration alone has issued 27 emergency use authorizations (EUA) in the first two weeks of April alone and 25 EUAs for all of March for unapproved products such as diagnostic and serological tests and ventilators to help fight the coronavirus.

The pandemic has also led to a dramatic increase in innovation and collaborations between researchers in academic institutions, government agencies and organizations. (Also see "It’s Raining EUAs: US FDA Drops Slew Of EUAs In Response To COVID-19" - Medtech Insight, 13 Apr, 2020.)

Patrick Lor, managing partner with Canada-based Panache Ventures, a $58m seed-stage venture fund focused on SaaS, fintech and AI start-ups, said this shared goal to beat COVID-19 will drive the collaborative spirit. Companies that build technologies to enable these types of interactions will be winners.

He cited Canada-based software company DNAstack, which developed a cloud-based network that makes genomic and clinical information globally accessible and useful to researchers everywhere.

“They are helping scientists collaborate on research – it’s a massive database to basically make sure that scientists don’t duplicate work across thousands of universities and hundreds of thousands of researchers,” Lor said. “It’s a massive opportunity and a massive democratization of a platform like that.”

The Rise Of Telehealth

The pandemic has led to an unprecedented surge in telehealth use, supported in large part by state governments and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service who tore down barriers that formerly restricted telehealth and remote monitoring.

Many believe that trend is here to stay.

Joseph Brennan, a telehealth consultant at Moonshot Health Consulting, said key actions in the US that removed barriers include the provision of reimbursement for multiple clinicians to provide telehealth to Medicare beneficiaries; the use of online tools such as Skype to visit with doctors by phone or video conference at no additional cost and from the patient’s home; the allowance for certain practitioners to issue prescriptions for controlled substances to patients via telemedicine without a prior in-person exam; and finally letting physicians visit with patients across state lines without them needed to be licensed in the state where the patient is located at the time of treatment. 

Many expect that the widespread adoption of telehealth by providers and patients will create a fundamental shift in how patients and practitioners communicate. (Also see "Telemedicine Is Riding High, Hopes For More Provisions In 'Phase Three' COVID-19 Stimulus Package" - Medtech Insight, 25 Mar, 2020.)

“What we’ve seen over the last four to six weeks is that all the barriers and rules as it relates to health care are being pushed to the side, so that we can bring the care that the patient needs in real time,” Brennan said.

The Digital Era

Social distancing and the need to isolate has led to a dramatic shift in how people communicate. Medical reps who are used to visiting with physician clients face-to-face have been using digital tools such as videoconferencing and virtual reality to help guide a physician remotely how to implant and service a product.

Many companies realize that they may be relying too much on conferences and face-to-face sales to physicians and may shift their focus on building more relationships with patients, said ZS consultant Brian Chapman. 

Deloitte’s Snyder expects that digital tools will also be used by companies to monitor the performance of a product through its entire lifecycle.

Data Is King

The effort to contain COVID-19 has shown that health data is exponentially more powerful if it can be collected, combined and shared, according to Pamela Spence, Ernst & Young global health sciences and wellness leader.

One example is the power of contact-tracing apps used by governments such as China, Israel, Taiwan and South Korea to trace coronavirus infection routes, which is then shared with the public so they can avoid further spread of the disease.

Technologies such as 5G-powered telehealth, virtual triage and sensors that track people’s movement and AI-assisted drug discovery efforts have all played a key role during the pandemic, and Spence expects that these technologies will take on an increasingly more important role in the future of health care.

 

“One of the greatest success stories is how individual countries around the world had, to a larger extend, at the right point and time, been able to change the population behavior at a scale that is unprecedented.” – Pamela Spence

 

Behavioral Science

Spence said that there is universal consensus that behavior is a critical factor in health outcomes and several digital health companies have already successfully integrated solutions into their products and services to “nudge” people into making better choices for their health. She expects that the crisis will lead to even more insights into behavioral science.

“One of the greatest success stories is how individual countries around the world had, to a larger extent, at the right point and time, been able to change the population behavior at a scale that is unprecedented,” she said.

Rethinking Work

The shift toward remote and virtual work also has many companies rethink their work environment.

As many companies are making the shift from ensuring the health and safety of workers to planning for a recovery, they realize the need for change.

Many people will need to continue balancing work with their home lives, such as taking care of children or a loved one, which will require flexibility on the part of organizations in terms of employees’ schedules and mental wellness, according to a report by Deloitte on workforce strategies for post-COVID-19 recovery.

Lor finds that redesigning office spaces opens opportunities for redesigning the future of work to make it a healthier and more caring environment.

He added that the days of people in tight workspaces such as leasing WeWork spaces are likely over.

New Business Model

One of the biggest challenges for organizations, including medtech companies, will be to identify which business model they can best employ, Spence said.

Many will need to decide if they want to be “breakthrough innovators” developing the diagnostics, drugs, vaccines and medical devices required to address emerging threats or whether they want to be “disease managers,” developing services around a product.

“You can be either, I don’t think you can be both,” Spence said.

Patient-Centric

The epidemic is likely going to change the parameters of how medtech companies will be able to engage with patients moving forward.

Snyder foresees that companies will become more involved in solutions or services using digital tools and new technologies rather than just developing devices.

Chapman also believes that while companies have been relying heavily on conferences and face-to-face sales in the past, they may turn increasingly to direct communication with patients.

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