To create successful companies and products that will make the biggest impact on patients, it’s important that we focus our energy on enabling quantum leaps rather than small jumps.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen medtech investing soar to new heights. In 2017, venture capitalists reportedly poured $9 billion into the space, a 60 percent increase from the year prior. While more money is being allocated to innovation in this sector, there are still very few companies who have discovered the secret for delivering technologies that truly transform healthcare.
We are repeatedly seeing investments that make only incremental advancements in the standard of care that have a hard time successfully impacting patients’ wellbeing. These innovations are also struggling to achieve successful exits for investors. The reason for these failures is simple: they don’t go far enough in improving patient care and reducing costs. They are a small step forward when we need quantum leaps.
To be successful, medtech investments must save lives, reduce suffering or dramatically reduce costs – and preferably a combination of the three. Incremental improvements in existing technologies simply don’t accomplish those goals. To save us from a global healthcare crisis, we must develop technologies that change the status quo in healthcare.
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It is worthwhile to examine a few examples of quantum leaps where innovation will change the status quo. We can then match the problems with technological breakthroughs that will truly make a difference and drive efficiencies in healthcare:
- Tackling antibiotic resistance with precision medicine: The prevalence and overuse of antibiotics has led to the emergence of resistant “superbugs,” which could be on their way to becoming a bigger killer than cancer. They’re also draining the healthcare system financially. Each year, antibiotic-resistant infections are responsible for at least $20 billion in excess direct health care costs and up to $35 billion in lost productivity in the U.S. alone. While there are solutions today that claim to rapidly identify infection strains or stop transmission sooner, these are bandages to a deeply rooted problem.
Soon, we may be able to intervene in the disease cycle before people get sick or interrupt in the immune response after they are afflicted. We will see technologies that can identify health risks and coming epidemics or bioterrorism by tracking, capturing and identifying pathogens that previously could not be tracked. We will also see these same genetically-engineered technologies diagnose infectious diseases in hours when it now takes days. In the future, this class of diagnostics may be over-the-counter at your local drug store, potentially allowing for reduced time to accurate diagnosis and treatment that may save your life. Additionally, if a patient is not responding to antibiotics, we may be able to extract the pathogens and other threats related to the patient’s immune response from their blood, restoring the blood closer to a healthy state.
- De-centralization of healthcare: Continuing to build massive general hospitals is not always efficient for patient care, experience or safety. We need to rethink traditional care models and create alternative settings for delivering high-quality, safe and personalized care. It’s not uncommon for a generally healthy patient coming in for an orthopedic or similar procedure to come in contact with dangerous pathogens brought into a large hospital by another patient. In another example, busy general hospital emergency departments increase wait times for patients in need of critical procedures that are conducted in a lab or operating room. Often these hospitals run a backlog for access to the equipment for said procedures. Would it not be more sensible for a disintegrated emergency department located in close proximity to several hospitals with facilities for triage? This would allow providers to move patients to specific facilities that can deliver care quickly and efficaciously without requiring risky wait times. In the near future, we may see more patients receive care in localized, specialized treatment and surgical centers and emergency triage centers that are independent of hospitals.
- Surge in surgical innovation: Surgery is an area of healthcare that has grown significantly in the last century. While the use of anesthesia and sanitary equipment have greatly improved patient safety and made modern surgical procedures possible, we are entering into a new world where surgical interventions of all types, from dental implants to deep brain surgery, will be assisted by sophisticated robotic instrumentation and visualization systems, making surgery less invasive, faster and less expensive. Ultimately, we will see a dramatic improvement in outcomes, as procedures that were previously impossible are completed with ease and conducted in general hospitals, outside of complex surgical environments. These procedures may even be performed by top surgeons at a distance while nurses, technicians and less-trained surgeons attend. We may soon see a neurosurgeon on another continent participate and advise on the care of a patient thousands of miles away as if they were in the same operating room.
The influx of investments in the medtech industry is exciting and encouraging. This capital will greatly help support research efforts and get more innovations to patients quickly. But to create successful companies and products that will make the biggest impact on patients, it’s important that we focus our energy on enabling quantum leaps rather than small jumps. It’s through these leaps that we can truly transform healthcare and solve some of the world’s biggest problems.
Source: MedCity News