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Fighting the COVID-19 battle: The power of MedTech

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Harjit Gill, Chief Executive Officer, Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed) shares her views on the use of medtech to combat the COVID-19 pandemic

With more than three million confirmed cases and two lakh deaths globally, the novel coronavirus has placed immense pressure on healthcare systems around the world. Despite being a very challenging time for healthcare ecosystems, it is also a time of great opportunity where we can significantly contribute to strengthening healthcare infrastructure and delivery for the future. The medical technology industry is at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 through its commitment to providing essential devices and developing new and innovative solutions to prevent, diagnose and treat COVID-19. From testing kits for diagnosis; to masks and protective gear to prevent transmission; to ventilators, respirators, catheters, syringes and blood collection tubes for treatment, the MedTech industry is coming together across the globe to support governments in fighting COVID-19.

The Indian government is showing its commitment to contain the spread of coronavirus. From screening to developing more affordable testing kits, to website (MyGov.in) and apps (AarogyaSetu) that support people to stay at home/quarantine, the Government is working hard to address an array of new challenges.

For the world’s second most populous country, it is crucial that India’s healthcare vision continues to look towards a coordinated and inclusive regional and global response to local challenges, so that its population has access to the best quality healthcare.

Acknowledging the gaps

Today, as economies around the world battle the crisis, there are many gaps that have emerged. The world is reeling under the immense pressure placed on healthcare infrastructure on a global scale, with COVID-19 pushing many healthcare systems to their breaking point.

Figures from a recent government meeting suggest that 183 districts across India have fewer than 100 isolation beds and 143 districts have no ICU beds; and we know that in many countries, the shortage of ventilators, testing devices and protective equipment for healthcare staff risks crippling the healthcare system.

These circumstances have further brought to light the value that medical technology can bring to healthcare systems and highlights the need for economies to work together to encourage investment and innovation so to ensure their populations have access to the best quality treatment.

MedTech meeting new needs

The MedTech industry is at the forefront of addressing new challenges that have emerged during this pandemic. For example, to provide the frontlines with the critical diagnostic information needed, Abbott is working on introducing COVID-19 tests across its diagnostics platforms – from central labs to point of care. Since January, Johnson & Johnson in India has been working directly with governments and health authorities to help end this fast-moving COVID-19 pandemic and has supported the Government of Maharashtra by donating 10,000 units of N95 masks, 200,000 units of surgical 2/3 ply masks, and 1,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) kits. Medtronic India has also donated masks and PPEs to healthcare professionals during this crisis; and has publicly shared the design specifications for the Puritan Bennett 560 (PB560) ventilator to enable stakeholders across industries to evaluate options for rapid ventilator manufacturing to help doctors and patients battling COVID-19. These are a few of the many examples of support and innovation that we see from stakeholders across the MedTech industry.

When we look at India, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, testing remains a major challenge even in light of the robust containment measures being taken by authorities. The nation is initiating serological testing to monitor the spread, with the apex court directing the government to make tests free for people holding Ayushman Bharat cards or for economically weaker sections. Global MedTech associations have extended their support to the government and are working around the clock to keep the supply chain intact.

Global harmonisation

With critical shortages like lack of ventilators, experienced healthcare professionals and testing kits putting additional pressures on healthcare systems across geographies, it is time to rethink healthcare priorities in India and bring them in line with a global view that will not only promote the quality of products, but also foster a robust and sustainable ecosystem in India that encourages long-term innovation. Moreover, to ensure that quality standards are maintained, we must also adhere to global standards to address critical issues like safety and performance requirements, quality systems, standards and procedures of post-market surveillance to counter the disease spread.

Collaboration through partnerships

The world needs to work together to grow robust and adaptive healthcare infrastructure and ecosystems. This calls for new and innovative partnerships between all stakeholders across the MedTech and broader healthcare landscape – manufacturers, health ministry officials and policy makers, healthcare practitioners, start-up incubators, service providers, academic institutions and research organisations. We, members of the MedTech industry, are committed to working productively and collaboratively with governments to ensure improved patient outcomes and high-quality care. We believe, in times like these, we must be open and inclusive to achieve our common goal of increasing patient access to lifesaving health care.

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