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An era of overdue innovation and digital transformation in healthcare

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Himanshu Baid, MD, Poly Medicure suggests how India needs to re-strategise a long-term roadmap for promoting the medical devices industry in the post-pandemic era. He urges a stronger consistent approach and continued proactive efforts to create a more conducive environment for global and domestic manufacturing of medical devices

Innovation in medical device industry means innovation in complete life cycle of the medical device from conceptualisation to end of life of the device. Innovation can help in getting patients’ needs right, connecting medical device to its users such as doctors, lab technicians and patients – improve clinical outcomes, leveraging latest technology.

MedTech with a steady growth rate of 15 per cent has catapulted India into the top 20 global medical devices market over the past decade – approximately $ 12 billion. With the government allowing 100 per cent foreign direct investment, the past years saw many foreign players enter the Indian market under the automatic route bringing in innovative products and setting up manufacturing units in the country.

Now with impactful technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) bringing in a convergence across healthcare products and industry segments, the medical devices industry is set for some revolutionary changes in the next few years.

Many startups have stepped up to this challenge by designing innovative, low-cost cutting edge technology-led medical devices such as hand-held ECG monitors, wearable medical devices, one-touch blood pressure monitoring devices, hand held cancer scanning and diagnostic devices. With these products and services, these firms aim to solve some of the most pressing healthcare problems in the country at affordable prices.

Last two decades have seen many disruptive technologies in various industries, but the highly regulated market of medical devices has been less impacted in comparison to other industries and this offers the medical device industry the opportunity to leapfrog and make fundamental and sweeping changes that will sustain for years to come.

The outbreak of coronavirus has presented us with unique opportunities to have allowed rapid innovation in the medical devices sector.

  • The “New Normal” tells us that nothing is normal to everything can be normal. But everyone needs to adapt fast. COVID -19 pandemic has taught us that it is needed to be prepared for the worst. Especially in healthcare where patient’s life is the prime focus. And a healthcare which is affordable and accessible to all.
  • Recently, it is seen that even countries with the best healthcare technologies and facilities had a hard time managing the crisis.
  • There has been a sudden surge in importance of telemedicine, point of care devices and the use of location data to track the disease.
  • More than 500 new companies ventured into medical devices in last 3-4 months which proves that India has the ability to quickly innovate and adapt to new technologies.
  • From diagnosis and pathology to drug discovery and epidemiology, healthcare’s reliance on large amounts of data makes it one of the most exciting frontiers of artificial intelligence (AI). According to some studies, AI can help us analyse clinical data to understand prognosis, treatment and can link and take reference of the real world evidence available.

To keep pace with demands of today’s system, we need to work together to re-imagine the paradigm for digital health regulation.  Only by re-imagining the paradigm for digital health can we connect the dots between various data sources to more highly integrate health care pathways, develop meaningful health data at scale, and deliver the tremendous potential of digital health to improve patient care

Several public-private partnerships are already underway to address the gaps in the healthcare sector by bringing together various technological advancements related to COVID-19 with the help of start-ups, public R&D labs and academia in the like of IITs.

  • Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), through its 38 laboratories and expertise from diverse areas quickly developed COVID-19 interventions.
  • With the perfect blend of scientific knowledge, technical expertise, industry linkages and governmental interfaces, CSIR has come up with almost as many technologies and products to be deployed against COVID-19 – from innovations and improvisations, these technologies have different levels of sophistication. Right from ventilators to indigenous diagnostic kits to clinical trials of repurposed drugs to much needed WHO stipulated hand sanitisers, masks and diagnostic kit for COVID-19.
  • Out of 105 technologies and products developed, 58 have been transferred to various industry partners.
    • Digital and molecular surveillance
    • Rapid and economical diagnostics
    • New and repurposed drugs and vaccines
    • Hospital assistive devices like ventilators, oxygen enrichment units, hospital care assistive robotic devices, respiration assistance intervention device
    • PPEs, face shields and many other medical devices

However, post-pandemic situation can be different for India to position itself more stronger with the consistent approach, there is a need to continue its proactive efforts to create a more conducive environment for global and domestic manufacturing of medical devices. It will be important for India to re-strategise a long-term roadmap for promoting the medical devices industry.

  • Firstly, focus should be on enhancing competency of Indian medical devices sector through skilling and upskilling in sync with the medical and technological advancements.
  • Expanding opportunities and access through joint policy support for both demand and supply side of the medical devices industry. Technology can be used for a range of purposes like remote consultation platforms, democratising diagnostics, monitoring health wearables, manufacturing smart low-cost devices and enabling policy development. What innovations from these initiatives will have in common is that they will solve problems, which is always at the heart of innovation.
  • The need is to scale up India’s ability to develop products in low-resource settings and it has to be deployed across geographies.
  • It is time to re-set the Indian healthcare ecosystem by actively leveraging technologies like cloud computing and AI to build products and solutions that can be widely adopted.

The Indian government has announced several initiatives and policy measures to boost the medical devices sector, there is more potential to build policy certainty to accelerate growth of the sector. In order to foster innovation as the centerpiece of this industry’s growth and expansion, creating a robust funding mechanism will have to be prioritised. It could be through:

  • Funds created by the government or in a public-private model
  • Capital subsidies
  • Tax exemptions in medical devices parks
  • Creating shared infrastructure to support med-tech innovation such as shared raw material supplier base, testing services, among others.

With a futuristic and collaborative approach, India will be poised to exponentially grow its medical devices sector to its full potential not only to improve standards of healthcare in India but also to emerge as a trusted partner to the world for healthcare transformation.

To boost “Make in India for the World”, Government should:

  • Bring in R&D incentives to the likes of 200 per cent weighted deduction
  • Reinstate export incentives like Merchandise Export from India Scheme (MEIS) scheme to previous year’s levels.
  • Reimburse patent fees

Encourage procurement of Innovative devices in central and state government purchase program.

The response to the pandemic offers an opportunity to bring about structural changes in India’s health policy and regulations and reduce India’s dependence on imports of medical devices which is currently over 75 per cent.

Lastly, the road map should focus on innovation and R&D as a strong pillar of building India’s best-in-class manufacturing ecosystem. I am sure India can emerge as a significant medical device manufacturer and become a factory for the world like the pharma industry.

Innovation and digital transformation in healthcare isn’t just about the technological evolutions, it’s about the challenges and gaps we need to address in healthcare, across the ecosystem and build a viable healthcare model, leveraging technologies and gigantic sources of unstructured data and information.

The newer technologies, such as robotic surgeries, artificial intelligence, telemedicine, home care offer great advantages. The future of healthcare lies in working hand-in-hand with technologists and healthcare professionals.

To address the need of growing consumable healthcare market, Polymed is also investing in new technologies and enhancing its R&D capabilities to deliver high quality medical devices. Poly Medicure is a leading Indian manufacturer and exporter of medical devices with focus on innovation, safety and quality. The company has served the medical fraternity for over 23 years. Since 1997, the high-quality standards of our product continue to make us the preferred choice of Healthcare professionals across the globe. The company has 9 ultra-modern manufacturing facilities out of which 6 facilities are in India and one each in Italy, Egypt & China. These are equipped to manufacture over 3.5 Million Devices per day which included many patented devices confirming to latest Global norms. Polymed owns more than 215 patents and continues to file new patents for new technologies and devices they are developing with the help of its R & D team.

Company received an award for one of the Top 25 Innovative Company in 2019 by CII Industrial Innovation Awards. It won another noticed award “Medical Devices Company of the Year 2018” from Government of India. India being an important market, company has braced its domestic presence with a strong distribution channel of over 1500 partners and a workforce of 5000+. Also, to contribute significantly to the overall healthcare delivery system company has strengthened its team of clinical experts and adapted “Products to Solutions” approach. Polymed is also the largest exporter of consumable Medical devices from India for last 8 years. Polymed continues to research for new technologies to help improve healthcare outcomes & cost of delivery at a global scale.

As the Covid-19 pandemic disrupts nearly every aspect of life, Polymed has turned to digital technology and analytics to help us prepare for new ways of empowering the team and serving customers once we reach the other side. We had initiated internal training programs to upskill our workforce with clinical and product knowledge.

This situation also gave us an opportunity to engage digitally with the healthcare community by means of webinars bringing veterans from the industry. These virtual programs enabled us to build online learning events aimed at imparting knowledge and skills to different set of healthcare professionals.

We have already started investing in digital transformation and have found it easier to cope with global lockdowns that have forced entire workforces into telecommuting. It has helped us rival  with rapid supply chain changes and workplace together with unpredictable business needs that the pandemic has raised.

With many people quarantined in their homes or accessible virtually, digital experiences matter more than ever.We will go a step further, investing in our technology architecture to expedite our digital transformation and put ourselves in a stronger position coming out of the pandemic.

Shifting approach to healthcare from reactive to preventative will be more sustainable and efficient, and benefit not just patients, but the whole healthcare echo system. Med Tech will play a key role in achievement of this goal.

1 Comment
  1. Hardik says

    Digital transformation is causing the greatest disruptions according to globally renownded digital marketing influencer, Vladimer Botsvadze.

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