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Data and access to information key

By Katie Pfaff

Staff Writer

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Panelists tackled data, innovation and changes organizations need to make to adapt to the upcoming trends in a session at the Advance Medical Technology Association's (AdvaMed) MedTech Conference. An all-female panel of speakers discussed what leadership should do to prepare for business movement toward big data and machine learning, consumer trends and valuing people in an organization at "The future of leadership in medtech: trends of disruption and consolidation" panel.

Moderator Maria Sainz, med-tech executive and board director, Halyard Health, MRIC Interventions and Orthofix, commented that despite a lot of discussion about strategy the basis always comes back to people and finding the right way to get to solutions. Panel discussion began with acknowledgement that for many years medical devices relied on largely mechanical action, and the industry has undergone a significant change with data integration. The question remains what that revolution means for day to day business and leadership, and the expertise that is needed.

Fundamental shift in med tech

"We are in a totally different era now, if we think about where this industry is headed," said Erica Rogers, president and CEO, Silk Road Medical, adding that she expects the result of that change means business has a greater focus on outcomes, and management should be actively engaged in learning about trends in technology, through attending conferences related to big data, artificial intelligence (AI), or other technology.

"As CEOs, as leaders we absolutely have to understand where these trends are going. It's as simple as where is AI and even what role are robotics going to play in manufacturing, where am I going to see people displacement inside of my company," said Rogers. "So it's all the way from how do we make the devices with robotics and AI all the way through any embedded software that's taking data, consolidating that into the devices and all the way up to outcomes, and all of the outcomes data that are going to exist in terms of wearables and other outcomes data."

Lisa Suennen, managing director, GE Ventures, commented that the industry needed to take heed of the digital changes on the horizon.

"I've been working at the confluence of these industries for a long time, which I think is kind of unusual. And the thing I'm observing now is how woefully underprepared I think most of the med-tech companies are to address this data issue. Most of them don't have data scientists working in their organization, they don't have familiarity with the type of technology that is becoming increasingly important, particularly for regulators and people thinking about reimbursement. They are not yet willing to accept that the competition landscape is changing. One method to manage technological change will be through partnerships," she said.

Partners needed outside silos

Those partners are outside of the med-tech industry, and attending meetings like HIMSS or Health 2.0, she said. Industry also will need to address cybersecurity, which poses a risk to devices such as drug infusion pumps, said Sainz.

Bringing in the clinical aspect, Tina Moen, deputy CHO, IBM Watson Health, said data may help to hone the conversation for clinicians who may not always know what data they need to solve a problem they are experiencing. Discussions with the clinical community can elucidate pain points, how those can be addressed with digital solutions, and how to manage the massive amount of data that can be collected.

Rise of consumer knowledge

Consumer habits also may pose a change for segments of the industry. While devices may have traditionally thought of their customer as practitioners, some devices can be sold direct to consumer, and users are educating themselves on devices online far more than in decades past.

"The trends are definitely that patients want it to be convenient, want it nearby and want it now, but I don't think that means they don't want a human involved," said Tracy MacNeal, president, Ximedicadx, Ximedica. "I think automation is going to be important. There's a ton on waste in the system, but that user-centric approach is going to be important. I don't think people want their health care to be through an Ipad."

Technology may be able to streamline parts of the process in order to free up aspects that need human attention.

Panelists shared differing ideas on how the change would take shape, but agreed change was eminent.

"The role shifts in medicine," sad Moen. "There are always going to be two things that are needed: the humanity of medicine, delivering a tough message to someone is part of the job, unfortunately, counseling someone, providing compassion. The other thing is that sometimes a patient comes in and on paper they look one way, but when you look at them as a human being, it just does not fit. I think the role will shift as opposed to go away."

Suennen added that patients have become more willing to question a diagnosis, and will look up data on a device, particularly adverse events associated with devices.

Based on these trends toward consumer-focus and data usage, hiring methods also are changing. Cutting edge technology companies are hiring health-oriented staff, and startup medical device companies are melding teams of diverse backgrounds, bringing in technology and data science employees. Teams are bringing together those with experience in the industry and younger, creative staff who may approach office culture in a completely different way. However, successful people-oriented management can bring together the competing interests and solidify a clear strategy to achieve goals.

Published  September 28, 2017

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