Interconnected health

Health & Education

In an ever more interconnected world, the ability to draw on findings from one symptom/treatment situation to assist in another, irrespective of where the patient is, has attracted more attention with the rapid development of Covid vaccines.  Of course, this did not just happen overnight and the speed this time round is the accumulation of hard work improving connectivity between medical and software.

The scale of the opportunity arising from efficiencies is significant. Whilst the panacea of full interconnectivity has some distance to travel, improvements are being made and the Software as a Medical Device (“SaMD”) market, the evolving high end technologies integrating software, medical devices and connectivity, is showing strong growth potential, with revenues expected to reach $86.5bn within the next 6 years, up from $18.5bn in 2019. (Itself this is only a part of the much wider Medical Internet of Things market, which in the UK has over 450m medical devices connected to healthcare networks, a 25% growth on IoT connected devices year on year, driving a 36% growth in data. 

The evaluation processes for SaMD are risk assessed, linked to the situation targeted, from those where the software is effectively using AI to replace (or triage cases for) a doctor’s diagnosis to less critical information provision for healthcare management.  Trust is a key factor for adoption and acceptance. Whilst we all accept software “glitches” to some degree from new releases of software in other spheres, in healthcare it can swiftly damage trust.  

Whilst many will be sceptical of being diagnosed by a computer, fully interconnected use of vast amounts of data is actually likely to drive improved accuracy overall (someone, somewhere in the world is more likely to have had matching symptoms than if we simply relied on the data set of one group of patients from any individual doctor).  This extends beyond diagnosis of course and into treatment – if we know what drug combination is most effective for a given set of symptoms, we should reach a better result, at least on average.  All this is of course subject to the quality and accessibility of the relevant data.

However the implications of using such technology also need considered from an opposing standpoint – its use could limit the ability of a doctor to consider treatments outside a defined norm – Minority Report, as seen in healthcare rather than crime?

From a management information perspective, accurate information and an improved awareness of what is going on elsewhere should improve utilisation of facilities and hence reap the cost efficiencies needed by healthcare institutions across the globe. 

These markets are very much drawing on expertise across multiple sectors, with data, as in an ever increasing array of sectors being the core commodity that parties need to be able to accumulate, manage, protect and analyse.  Within the last few years we have seen an increasing variety of sectors, healthcare included, seeking to evaluate their best approach to managing and monetising their data.  In these evaluations it is key not to look too narrowly – your own perspective is shaped on your own knowledge and beliefs and is often hampered, bizarrely perhaps, by having too much knowledge of your own business as it currently operates.  We frequently see an off-site management day as a opportunity to look for that alternate approach.

A third party perspective can be an invaluable addition, not just from an adviser, though a good one will undoubtedly bring ideas from one of the different businesses they have advised, but also from other parties they may be able to introduce.  

The World is ever more inter-connected.  Your value in the eyes of an international business operating in a slightly different market is unlikely to be the same as that offered by the closest competitor in your local market.

A number of insightful comments in this vein were flagged at the Digital Health Word Congress held over the last couple of days, with good examples of the benefits of repurposing practices from other sectors as diverse as aviation and gaming.  For SaMD, specifically, this included ways of reusing rather than re-inventing software, so that the new, less tested elements of a new application are built on a platform where a larger percentage has already been tested in the field.

With technology advancing at pace, taking the time to secure different perspectives can help avoid wasted time and resources. Don’t be too wrapped up in the day to day running of the business to take time out to consider whether you are heading down the optimum route.

SaMD is a result of evolving high-end technologies, which integrate software, medical devices and connectivity. The SaMD market is expected to reach $86.45 billion in 2027 from $18.49 billion in 2019, with an estimated Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21.9%.

By Richard Hall on 30/03/2021