Healthcare is moving to a model that, in many cases, reaches out to and addresses the needs of consumers and patients directly. Whether the consumer acquires the technology via a purchase at a retail store or it’s provided through a physician, the person is ultimately using the technology at home and outside of a healthcare facility. That’s a new challenge for medical device manufacturers. Meanwhile, that’s an aspect companies like IBM, Apple, Google, and Samsung can assist with, educating their new medtech partners.
Cybersecurity—Between malware, viruses, and hackers, devices today need to have robust security solutions to keep unwanted access out. This now includes connected medical devices—a fact the industry still seems to not pay enough attention to. The first reported death that occurs due to access gained by an outside party will certainly thrust cybersecurity into the limelight (and it is of this editor’s opinion that this isn’t a matter of “if” but rather “when”). The consumer technology leaders entering healthcare are quite familiar with incorporating security into their devices, and collaborations between them and medtech could result in medical device engineers gaining enough knowledge from these developers to ensure they consider security appropriately for all connected products.
Data management—Attend any healthcare conference and undoubtedly, the subject of Big Data will emerge. Collecting, analyzing, and acting upon data is a skill set at the top of the list for many tech giants. The medtech industry, on the other hand, is an amateur in this area. At the same time, the amount of patient data being collected by healthcare professionals as well as devices has become overwhelming. Sorting, identifying value, and analyzing the data are all areas where traditional medtech firms could use a helping hand. Again, the technology leaders could share some insights into more efficient means of accomplishing this.
Connectivity/IoT—While this topic ties in closely with the aforementioned cybersecurity and data management, there are other considerations that need to be addressed that are still separate from those issues. Most medical device manufacturers are accustomed to developing medical technologies used in hospitals or doctor’s offices. With a few exceptions, the environment is relatively static; it’s a fairly well understood element. As such, designers are already familiar with the challenges that need to be considered versus the elements that could unintentionally impact device performance. With the increase of at-home and portable technologies used outside a healthcare environment, however, the potential impact to connectivity increases exponentially. This isn’t something many medical device designers who develop technologies for the hospital are used to addressing. Meanwhile, consumer devices go through an array of testing for this outside, unpredictable world and that knowledge could be very useful to the medtech industry.
Interface—Up until relatively recently, most medical devices were being used by doctors, nurses, surgeons, etc.—trained professionals familiar with medical terms and procedures. A certain comprehension and proficiency could be assumed by the product’s designer. With a consumer who may have an extremely basic level of understanding of medicine or none at all, this assumption cannot be made for products being used in the home. You know who has expertise with consumer interfaces that are user friendly and easy to use? Those tech industry folks. Their proficiency in this design area could prove quite valuable to medical device manufacturers currently, or those expecting to develop medical devices used by patients directly. Usability considerations increase in significance even more when you’re providing a technology to someone who may be impaired by a disease or disability. Further, elderly consumers will present their own unique set of challenges as they relate to the interface with the device.
There are other ways in which traditional medical device manufacturers can benefit from the “give and take” that’s happening when partnering with a tech leader on a project. This arrangement is not simply about educating these newcomers on the regulatory environment. They bring value to the table in an array of design areas that are new for medtech.
Be sure to take advantage of THEIR knowledge while they lean on you for yours.