The global pandemic put an unprecedented strain on the NHS at a time when it was already under immense pressure to combat chronic issues facing an ageing population. At the height of the pandemic, the need to address the huge threat to people’s lives meant doctors and nurses being redeployed across the system, reducing capacity elsewhere. Meanwhile, lockdowns led to a huge increase in remote diagnostics and the closure of outpatient clinics.
We are now living with the consequences. The NHS is facing a growing backlog of elective surgeries that has risen to a record high, people across the country are struggling with long-term physical and mental health issues, and the closure of outpatient clinics meant new clinical trials were stalled or postponed. That is without mentioning the low morale amongst primary care staff which has left many local trusts struggling to attract and retain talented staff.
However, there was one major positive to come out of the pandemic: the speed of medical technology (MedTech) adoption across the NHS and the benefits this had on patient outcomes. At a time when the country needed it most, innovation that enhanced patient care and reduced costs was embraced.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it is predicting the future is a risky business. But there are already some major trends emerging across the healthcare system which will come to the fore next year and shape the future of the MedTech industry.
Hello to hybrid
Telemedicine exploded during the pandemic as consultations moved online. But without the immediate threat of a COVID-19 outbreak, GPs and clinicians are facing a backlash from patients who are frustrated at remote consultations and diagnostics. The reality is that many chronic conditions simply cannot be identified over a telephone or video call – something GPs and specialists increasingly recognise.
2023 will see the healthcare system embrace a hybrid model that recognises the convenience of remote consultations for many but respects the needs for real face-to-face appointments for others.
Home and hospital
As the inevitable pressure on healthcare services intensifies in the short-term, expect to see increased deployment and use of MedTech that enables patients to monitor and, in some cases, treat their own conditions more effectively at home.
This approach will reduce the need for hospital or clinic visits and help healthcare professionals monitor, identify, and treat patients – ensuring they get the care they need, when they need it but that limited resources are not wasted. In a world where millions have experienced delays in surgery, this will become an increasingly important part of making patients comfortable while they wait for treatment.
Welcome to the age of MedTech
The necessity driven by the pandemic has encouraged faster and more frictionless adoption of technology. This move has been supported by healthcare professionals who recognise that only technology can effectively bridge the gap between increased medical demand and limited budgets.
There is a good reason why healthcare services have traditionally been slow to adopt new treatments and standards of care: changes need to demonstrably deliver better clinical outcomes to be adopted. This can be hard to prove and takes time to demonstrate. When most new treatments were pharmaceutical, there was always a concern around potential long term side effects, particularly if a new treatment was only marginally better than the previous standard of care.
As the pace of evolution within the MedTech industry quickens, treatments can demonstrate real patient benefit far more quickly. MedTech solutions can speed up healing by double or more, and several have adapted or modified medical techniques in new formats or applications. This will only increase in 2023 and beyond.
Reconnecting the supply chain
Whether it was the shortage of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) medicine for menopausal women or the fall-out from the lack of suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line staff, this year demonstrated the critical importance of a robust and effective supply chain in healthcare.
The UK healthcare system needs to ensure it can deliver continuity of care in an unpredictable world, particularly ensuring that drugs and MedTech solutions that help people heal are always available. A major trend in 2023 will be MedTech companies being challenged to demonstrate how they will ensure continuity of supply in all circumstances. As the world becomes less predictable, healthcare systems will take less of a ‘just in time’ approach to the delivery of critical products.
A world of opportunity
As MedTech further matures in 2023 and beyond, there will be challenges and opportunities for the industry. Better solutions for patient care that can demonstrably tick the dual boxes of improved outcomes and reduced cost will enjoy less barriers to adoption. This adoption, in turn, will provide additional opportunities to deliver value to healthcare systems and enhance the standard of care across both inpatient and outpatient treatments.
If the industry continues to showcase its potential to deliver better clinical and financial outcomes, 2023 and beyond will remain the age of MedTech.