Innovation is alive in the world of healthcare. This was the prevailing impression your author took away with him from having spent five hours at the MedTech Expo in Birmingham last week. Over 150 organisations including heavyweights such as the NHS and Roche were present as well as businesses spanning the whole medtech spectrum, from concept to design & manufacture via advanced technology, materials & solutions.
“The whole ethos of healthcare has changed” was how one industry delegate put it. This observation is less a function of the recent pandemic and more the result of increased digitalisation. The evolving healthcare model will be one that is both proactive and personalised. The almost ubiquitous ownership of smart phones allows for on-demand access to solutions and the continuous monitoring of problems. Expect artificial intelligence-driven programmes to feature more and more, even if regulation, data security and system interoperability issues will need to be appropriately tackled. Almost every delegate with whom we spoke embraced some version of this vision.
The Expo, however, was far from being all about software. Perhaps the two business models which impressed your author most were 3D-printing as the future of medicine personalisation and Airbnb for medical spaces. Begin with the former. FabRx – still private – was spun out of University College London in 2014. Its founders identified that there was an absence of 3D-printed options for personalised medicine and so built the business around it. Using a hot metal extrusion technique, FabRx is able to produce pills that vary by dosage, shape, colour and flavour – all contingent on patient need. It has already completed one clinical study (on metabolic disorders) and is working on two others (in cancer and paediatrics) currently. Watch this space.
We have made the case for the sharing economy for some time, with the logic of trusted platforms linking effective buyers and sellers being compelling to us. Why not apply this concept to healthcare? MedicalRenting.com (another currently private business) provides a portal which connects doctors interested in the occasional renting of operating theatres and treatment rooms with the owners of such facilities. Launched only last year – partly in response to the pandemic – the business has signed up around 7,000 physicians and 15 facilities to-date, exclusively in the private sector for now. MedicalRenting.com is present currently in Poland (the home country of its founders) but intends to launch in Germany and Italy soon. Other countries will likely follow as awareness and buy-in grows. User feedback so far has apparently been highly positive.
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