Every healthcare sector has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, giving rise to many new, unprecedented, and significant challenges, and the medical device industry is no exception.
What are the new trends in the medical device industry? What can healthcare professionals expect from this sector in 2021? Find out how today’s challenges transform healthcare and give rise to newer, more modern ways of caring for patients nationwide.
Telehealth is the New Normal
Although the use of remote caregiving services was slowly and steadily increasing throughout the 2010s, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a dramatic rise in the use of these services.
The CDC estimates that between March 2019 and March 2020, telehealth visits went up 154%. A 2020 Doximity report on telemedicine estimates that at least 20% of all medical visits in 2020 were conducted remotely. These numbers are expected to grow further for 2021.
To face these new demands, the use of Internet communication services, such as Zoom or Facetime, became a necessity. Web-based technology and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices for remote patient healthcare are also becoming commonplace.
Examples of telehealthcare applications include wearable medical equipment such as heart rate or blood sugar sensors, telesurgery like remote-controlled surgical robots, or extended reality (XR) devices.
Consequently, healthcare organizations and facilities are now under pressure to modernize their equipment to take advantage of these new technologies. There are many benefits, including a streamlined workflow, real-time monitoring and management of patient data, and fewer errors.
Despite the benefits and increased convenience, the heightened reliance on Internet connectivity and services for healthcare applications exacerbates existing inequalities. This exposes the divide between patients who have access to these technologies and those that don’t.
One of the most critical challenges of the medical device industry in 2021 (and beyond) will be finding ways to address these inequities and grant access to these services for those facing a disadvantage.
Cybersecurity and Data Privacy
With an increased focus on web-based technology and IoT devices comes an increased need for adequate cybersecurity protocols.
Small and medium healthcare practices are the most vulnerable to cyberattacks, in part due to the pervasive belief that cybercrime doesn’t target them, under the rationale that a cybercriminal would have no interest in a local business.
Despite these beliefs, the AMA estimated that at least 83% of physicians in the United States were targeted by at least one cyberattack of some form, highlighting the vulnerability of healthcare computer systems.
Cybersecurity in healthcare is a matter of patient data protection and digital privacy. A solid cybersecurity protocol should include the following measures:
- Using modern workstations and equipment with up-to-date software security systems
- Installing software updates as soon as possible
- Manage your facility’s IT assets (all computers, laptops, tablets, mobile devices) and ascertain who has access to each device
- Train medical staff to recognize and ignore email scams (a 2020 IBM X-Force report indicated a 6,000% increase in COVID-19 related spam)
- Create strong passwords; avoid using the same passwords across multiple devices or accounts, change them often, and store them safely
- Manage your facility’s internal network and ensure they feature adequate protection from unauthorized access and external attacks
- Maintain a dedicated IT department capable of managing your facility’s network vulnerabilities and implement appropriate incident responses.
Medical device manufacturers are also under pressure to build products with improved data security, protect workstations from data leaks, and keep them from unauthorized access.
Supply Chain Changes
Throughout 2020, the pandemic halted or severely slowed down virtually every sector’s supply chains at all levels, from manufacturing to packaging. The healthcare industry was among the hardest hit, contributing to the shortage of medical equipment, from PPE to workstations.
To combat these shortages and prepare for the future, U.S. medical device companies are shifting their production away from foreign markets and into the United States. This change is resulting in 100% U.S.-made products supplying facilities more quickly and for a lower cost.
Since 2020, all supply chain links, from medical researchers to caregiving facilities, are now cooperating more closely than ever before. Their shared objectives are to ensure the production and safe delivery of everything the industry needs to face the pandemic, from face masks and hand sanitizer to COVID-19 vaccines, with as few interruptions as possible.
Rethinking the supply chain to be local can help combat shortages, hoarding, and infrequent availability of specialized equipment.
The Need for Quality Equipment
A 2020 AHA report painted a grim picture of the nation’s healthcare infrastructures, estimating the total financial losses reached at least $323 billion by June 2020.
In other words, the budget of the average hospital faces unprecedented strain. Yet, many types of healthcare equipment are expensive and highly specialized in nature, making repairs or replacements very costly.
Caregiving facilities of all kinds cannot afford to continue replacing non-disposable equipment and supplies every year; they need the most durable and efficient equipment possible. This demand will shift the focus on the manufacturers’ side of the supply chain, incentivizing them to create and market products focusing on quality, user experience, and a long lifespan.
For example, medical workstations of the past frequently used lead-acid batteries, similar to those used in cars. Modern workstations have shifted away from lead-acid in favor of more efficient technologies, such as cobalt dioxide or LiFePO4.
Newer battery technology is also more user-friendly, with a fast-charging system, more easily readable indicators, and user-replaceable capabilities. These features help keep the workstations powered longer without the need for dedicated technicians.
Manufacturers should ensure that all their products are easy to clean and maintain, with no vulnerability to commonly-used disinfectants, and a design featuring as few crevices or corners as possible.
Improving Patient Experience
Optimizing the relationship between caregivers and patients is critical to their health and wellbeing. Contrary to popular belief, patient wellbeing is not solely the responsibility of caregivers; every healthcare industry sector has an incentive to do its part.
Although the most critical part of a patient’s experience in a healthcare facility remains the success of their plan, treatment, or medical operation, many other factors can also significantly impact the patient experience.
At the manufacturer level, new products featuring improved ergonomic features serve the three-fold purpose of increasing patient comfort, streamlining caregiver workflow, and increasing patient-caregiver time, resulting in better care overall. Most patients greatly value a caregiver who attempts to listen to them and understand their feelings. They will pay attention to the responses and the body language expressed by their caregivers.
For many patients, their healthcare experience begins long before seeing a professional; interacting with a local hospital’s website or applications, waiting periods for therapy or surgery, and patient-organization communications may significantly impact how well treated the patient feels.
Studies show that patient anxiety is highest during a waiting period, such as waiting for the doctor or test results. This phenomenon is colloquially known as “waiting room anxiety.”
In response, caregiving facilities have an incentive to improve the accessibility and convenience of their services, offering a non-judgmental and reassuring atmosphere to limit the anxiety in patients waiting for services. Holistic approaches to reducing patient anxiety, such as encouraging mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises, may also help improve the patient experience.
At Scott-Clark Medical, we understand the unprecedented nature of today’s healthcare challenges. Our mission is to help you serve others by producing and providing the highest-quality medical workstations and battery management technology possible. Top-quality medical devices allow caregiving personnel to spend less time fighting with the equipment and more time with the patient.
If you wish to learn more about our mobile medical carts and how they can improve your healthcare facility, give us a call at (512) 756-7300.