“Data collections on medical devices operated via artificial intelligence or other IT-supported technologies could be more valuable than the medical devices themselves in the future. Medical technology companies should therefore increasingly enter into partnerships with developers of sensor and analysis tools.” This is what Deloitte’s consultants demand.

“Artificial intelligence and IT-based data analysis have the potential to fundamentally change prevention, diagnostics and therapy,” says a new Deloitte Center for Health Solutions study. This would also lead to a dramatic change in traditional business models in medical technology.

Software development shifts focus in medical technology

The consultants’ analysis comes to the following conclusion: Medical technology companies that have traditionally specialised in the development of hardware such as surgical and diagnostic devices, infusion pumps and other medical equipment are already concentrating more and more on software, data acquisition and modern analytical methods.

Cooperation between healthcare technology companies and consumer technology manufacturers will also increase in the future – for example, when traditional hardware providers work more closely with developers of portable fitness and wellness tracking devices. An expert survey as part of the Deloitte study assumes that more sophisticated, data-driven services and the necessary software development will shift the traditional focus of medical technology.

The path leads away from the classical development of new hardware such as surgical devices or cardiac pacemakers and towards IT-supported processes and networked products. However, this also means that medical technology companies have to decide what role they want to play in the future. Do they want to appear as:

  • Data and platform providers
  • Organization for well-being and care
  • Provider for nursing services or
  • in a combination of all three?

Digital progress often does not reach patients well enough

A look at the Bertelsmann Foundation’s Digital-Health-Index shows clear differences in the digital transformation of the European healthcare system. On the basis of 34 indicators on strategy, technical readiness or digital maturity and actual connected health data exchange, 17 countries worldwide were evaluated. From Europe Estonia, Denmark and Spain ranked first in the ranking.

In these countries, digital technologies are already commonplace in surgeries and clinics. For example, prescriptions are transmitted digitally and patients’ important health data is stored in electronic files – which doctors and clinics can access directly. In Estonia and Denmark, all citizens can view their examination results, medication plans or vaccination data online and manage access for doctors and other healthcare professionals themselves. In contrast, digital progress is not reaching patients well enough at the bottom of the European ranking – Switzerland, France, Germany and Poland.

What is needed are user-oriented eHealth solutions

According to a representative survey conducted by market researcher Ipsos on behalf of consulting firm Sopra Steria Consulting, user-friendly eHealth applications would largely be welcomed. From the point of view of three quarters of the patients surveyed, some things in the healthcare system could run better if treatments were supported, for example, by monitoring apps, an electronic patient file or artificial intelligence.

Many consumers have become accustomed to the digitalisation of everyday life and now expect digital services in the healthcare sector to increase. However, today’s solutions still have many shortcomings in the eyes of those surveyed. According to one of the results of the interviews, the players in this sector would now have to follow suit in order to develop and introduce effective, user-oriented digital solutions.

In order to meet consumers’ high expectations, the healthcare system needs “cultural change, interoperable solutions as well as new incentive and financing models”, according to the consultants. Many solutions currently being developed would fail because they do not meet the needs of the ageing medical professionals and cannot be integrated into the care process and into the many different systems of clinics and surgeries.

Digital health platforms as a European project

In the future, it will therefore be more important to develop solutions that are specifically tailored to the respective care landscape and can be rolled out nationwide. “One approach would be a digital platform to network all players with their heterogeneous systems and to be able to offer digital health services to the broad masses – according to defined security standards,” says the study by Sopra Steria Consulting.

Unfortunately, however, the digital transformation of healthcare systems is not yet a European project. “Each country works more or less for itself. The consequences are a low visibility of the individual projects and a slow pace in the implementation of measures,” the study concludes. The lack of interoperability, which is already a huge problem at national level, is becoming a “complexity monster” at European level that can hardly be captured. So there is still a lot of room for improvement in the next years.

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