The COVID-19 catalyst: an opportunity for the MedTech sector to lead with outcomes-based solutions

Dealing with COVID-19 has shaken-up our healthcare systems, and there can be no return to the previous status quo. As the focus now moves beyond providing crisis care, healthcare systems must be ready to deal with the pandemic’s longer-term fallout, caring for those with long-term and chronic conditions.

Providers and patients both seek new care delivery solutions, with an increasing demand for internet-first and home-based care provision. We believe this represents an opportunity for the MedTech sector to introduce new solutions which enable healthcare providers to implement care models that fit the “new reality”.

MedTech patient ecosystem diagram

Changing care expectations

Providers are looking to expand the delivery of virtual care as far as possible and use remote decision-making. Patients want their care to continue to be high quality and are accepting new ways of doing things, including adopting digital tools and taking on more self-care. Neither clinicians nor patients are keen to return to hospital settings when remote care is a viable option. Regulators, too, are becoming more flexible in their market access requirements and faster in their decision-making.

Given the urgency in demand and the willingness of all parties to engage in new ways of providing care, COVID-19 is providing the opportunity to the MedTech sector to realise value-based care models in non-hospital settings. These approaches are characterised by a focus on outcomes, not procedures or products.

However, shifting to more value-based models is no easy task for MedTech firms. They need to consider a complex network of multiple stakeholders, the wide range of health problems, the variety of settings, the extensive interactions needed between different health and care teams, and the imperative for patients to take some charge of their care. Moreover, clinicians will need to be able to see that the correct care is being taken and is effective.

Even so, we believe MedTech companies are up to the challenge. There are four key steps they can take to navigate the design and delivery of ingenious patient-led responses to new market demand in the near term.

Get to grips with all the pain points in the system

Truly understanding the breadth and depth of existing care delivery ecosystems and the pain points within them will be fundamental to success. MedTech firms need this solid baseline from which to design and build solutions that add value and meet stakeholders’ needs. For example, we worked with British MedTech firm, to find new opportunity ‘spaces’ for a portable home-based dialysis technology. To do this, we considered the broader care pathways for patients with renal failures, such as the clinical touchpoints and decision-making processes that led up to dialysis, and the risks and benefits that came from in-patient dialysis services. As a result, we were better able to define where in the traditional dialysis pathway the firm’s innovation would fit – but also identify what else needed to change in the pathway (such as more use of home testing) for the new technology to deliver maximum benefit to patients.

Reimagine the future patient experience

If you keep asking the same questions, you’ll keep getting the same answers. Placing the patient at the centre of a solution gives a fresh perspective on the pain points. Re-imagining the ideal future patient experience enables solution providers to understand what needs to be true to deliver better patient outcomes. Once there is a clear view of all the pain points, Med Tech firms can fundamentally re-imagine their role in the patient experience and explore which solutions create the ideal reality.

Imagine a patient with a chronic lower limb ulcer who has a smart bandage emitting real-time data to their healthcare professional, informing them of compression therapy and wound progression. This would tell the clinician whether the wound is healing, if the patient is wearing the bandage properly, and if any actions need to be taken. Taking a different approach like this delivers clinical outcomes, is cost-effective, and improves patients’ quality of life, such as giving more independence and confidence.

Use real-world data to build, test and learn

Throughout the process of building and testing new solutions, MedTech firms need to stay true to the re-imagined experience and clear around what problem is being solved for whom. Agile approaches support this ability to quickly test minimal viable solutions with stakeholders, learn from the findings and iterate to refine the solution.

Market validation exercises are useful and will inform wider market acceptance and ensure value is created for every stakeholder in a real-world context. We took this approach when developing a remote patient monitoring solution alongside an immunosuppressant medication product. Conducting field market research with Health Care Professionals (HCPs), patients and payers (insurance companies, state, or private individuals) helped us validate unmet needs and define the value proposition, ensuring the original design and commercial hypotheses were correct in the real-world, real-user context.

Quantify and evaluate

Once a viable solution has been identified and tested, MedTech firms need to evaluate this proposition in the ecosystem to understand how its impact on patient quality of life, independence and confidence can be turned into economic value. This could mean building several different types of financial strategies.

For example, payers will want to see how the solution generates benefit for their overall population, freeing up resource to be deployed in more cost-effective ways. On the other hand, clinical providers (such as primary care centres or nursing facilities) – especially those funded through fee for service – will want to establish the benefit the solution brings to its bottom line, through more effective use of resources. Outcomes-based contracting is one way in which MedTech companies can develop new sources of income, beyond product sales.

We know the journey for MedTech firms to move from product-led to patient-led solutions in home and community settings will be complex, and often not linear. But COVID-19 has created the perfect storm for the adoption of outcomes-based solutions, and we believe the time is right for MedTech to push forward. The size of the opportunity – for patients, healthcare systems and the MedTech sector itself – means it’s one well worth pursuing.

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