Digital Transformation in Healthcare: Observations from MD&M

This year’s MD&M East, an expo that spans medtech, packaging, automation, plastics, design, and quality for the largest design and manufacturing event in the East, was a low-attendance, high-quality show that formed the backdrop for interesting conversations. What’s next for medtech? What are the implications for product development, product launch, suppliers, and consumers?

Panelists, presenters, and exhibitors posed important questions:

What is required for digital transformation in healthcare?

Digital transformation applies to more than just medical devices—it applies to the entire buying cycle. For the first time, tech and B2C experts are taking leadership positions in traditional medical device companies, bringing fresh perspectives to product development and product marketing. These companies are recognizing trends in patient consumerism and their changing expectations.

These leaders are addressing the barriers to digital transformation: coding issues—there is no recognized category for digital health in Medicare, cyber security; and the need to turn data into actionable information. Companies must structure data points for today and tomorrow—what data may be useful for future product innovation—and aggregate in a way that leads to trustworthy conclusions.

What role do AI and machine learning play in the future of healthcare?

AI has a role throughout the buyer cycle. From access to education and specialists, appointments, payments, diagnostics, post-operative recovery tracking and monitoring of chronic conditions, AI has the potential to enable innovation. AI represents a $10B opportunity in 5 years, $30B in 10 years for digital health. AI can’t be an after-thought, though: it requires robust, cross-functional engagement, and a clear path to monetization. It also requires companies to re-think their traditional go-to-market strategy: the digital health space is evolving quickly, and the market is flooded with stand-alone apps.

7 Steps for True Digital Transformation

How do we improve the customer experience in healthcare?

Like the flywheel, we need to think of the healthcare consumer’s full experience and remove points of friction. Many companies are creating separate segments for digital health, recognizing the need for fresh perspectives and a significant departure from traditional product launch. Voice of the Customer (VOC), Voice of the Organization, and Voice of Data are all critical and need to be approached without the bias of “the way we do things” and preconceived assumptions.

Customer experience (CX) and user interface (UI) have caused adoption issues to date. As one panelist put it, “no one taught you how to use your uber app.” Now B2C product managers, tech leaders, and traditional medical device leaders are invited to the table to define digital health.

How do we monetize digital health?

Companies like Livongo have already seen success launching diabetes control technology at “no-cost” to the consumer by tapping into existing payor codes. Another, a software add-on for CAT scans that can lead to faster diagnosis of stroke, was also able to latch onto existing codes. While the payor landscape is increasingly complex, any viable technology’s main benefit should be to the patient; but in many cases, it’s an efficiency for the physician, which may not be billable. Medical device companies need to identify where they fit in the value chain. It goes back to traditional marketing: who is the customer? What is the value proposition?

What lasting impact will COVID have on the future of digital health?

With the sudden growth in at-home care and so many positive experiences in telemedicine for new users, consumers and physicians alike, the time for digital health may be now. Tech users are more sophisticated, regardless of generation, and are taking a more active role in their own care. Physicians, too, are in an age of data-driven decision-making and are embracing the assistance of technology. Even with its existing limitations, telemedicine, which saw a 63x increase in the pandemic, offers some benefits: fewer physical barriers to visits, and more context in fields like pediatrics with a view into patients’ homes.

One barrier, however, is that in the pandemic, many medical device companies lost their venue for collaboration. Remote and hybrid product development presents challenges to innovation. [Read our guide to leading hybrid teams here]. It demands strong cross-functional alignment without a natural setting for it.

What fundamental changes are required to make digital health a reality?

Medical device companies need to address their foundational approach to cyber security, data governance, product development, and product launch. They’ll also need to build organizational “muscle” in cross-functional alignment, customer experience (CX) to ensure adoption, and re-think their customer profiles and payor models. The amount of investment in the field of digital health is an encouraging sign but is a significant shift in expectations from tech: larger investments, longer product development cycles.

Digital health and the digital transformation required demand a strong marketing strategy and organizational change management. Download our Digital Transformation eBook to learn more.