New report says partnerships key to future success for medtech firms (MedCityNews)

Partnerships with consumer-tech firms could help medtech companies innovate and stay relevant as healthcare turns increasingly to prevention and wellness, according to a new report from Deloitte.

Executives at medtech companies may be leery of Apple and other consumer-technology companies, especially as the latter tout ever-more-sophisticated healthcare applications. But as healthcare evolves, those potential competitors may turn out to be good partners, according to a new report by accounting and consulting firm Deloitte.

Partnerships with consumer-tech firms could help medtech companies innovate and stay relevant as healthcare turns increasingly to prevention and wellness, according to the report. Titled “Winning in the medtech future,” the report was based on input from 38 experts representing medtech companies, technology companies, health plans, health systems and researchers, as well as subject-matter experts from Deloitte.

The report defined medtech companies largely as firms engaged in developing medical devices, such as surgical equipment, joint replacements and diagnostic equipment. In other words, they make the hardware of healthcare.

But hardware is not what will distinguish them in the future, according to the report.

“In many ways, data collected from the hardware will be more valuable than the hardware itself,” the report said. “And 20 years from now, we expect that most of this medical hardware will be commoditized. What can set medtech companies apart from each other will be their ability to harness data gathered by their devices and use it to improve well-being, anticipate health issues, and help patients change the day-to-day behaviors that affect their health.”

For example, the report said, a company that makes artificial joints could work to develop sensors that detect the early stages of joint degeneration, implant the sensors in a wearable device and use them to head off the need for joint replacement in the first place.

While medtech companies will continue to innovate on their own, they may find an advantage in partnering with consumer-tech companies, which would allow greater access to consumers and sophisticated data analytics.

Consumer-tech companies already are collecting reams of consumer data that can be used in healthcare, according to the Deloitte report.

“This access to consumer-generated data (nonhealth data that leads to health insights), a massive research and development (R&D) budget, efficient distribution channels, and an embedded culture of innovation can give some technology companies an advantage over established medtech companies,” the report said.

And consumer-tech companies won’t sit still. While they are focused primarily on so-called Class I devices (those that pose little risk to patients), they may move up the chain to Class II and Class III devices, the report said.

“Consumer technology startups are also disrupting the industry by developing innovative devices such as smart patches that monitor heart rate, oxygen saturation, hydration, and breath rate in real-time, and in some cases, are potentially giving large devices such as MRI machines a run for their money with advanced wearable technology,” the report said.

Medtech companies should be sure to protect their intellectual property as they collaborate, the report cautioned. But they should not shy away from potentially fruitful partnerships.

“Companies might consider testing the waters by collaborating on one or two specific use cases. Then, examine the bounds of the relationship as pilots succeed or fail,” the report said.

The report also suggested medtech companies may want to focus on developing services, such as remote patient monitoring, that they could sell to hospitals and health systems. They could then bundle the services into what the report calls XaaS, modeled on software as a service but with X standing in for whatever companies develop.

The experts surveyed for the report ranked artificial intelligence, robotics, augmented reality and nanotechnology among the technologies most likely to transform the quality of health care.