Trends

Analyzing Expert Transcripts: 4 Trending Conversations in MedTech

Tim Hafke

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September 22, 2022


Slowly coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and into the usual flu season, MedTech companies and leaders are looking ahead at what to expect in the upcoming months. From telehealth developments to emerging competition over surgical robots, AI implementation in healthcare and advancements in digital therapeutics, there is no shortage of information to absorb and synthesize into opportunities. And to really take advantage of any bubbling prospect, you need an expert’s perspective on the ins and outs of what the MedTech industry is facing.

To provide a better grasp around the MedTech conversations happening right now, we’ve searched our Stream database of industry expert calls to share leading perspectives from medical professionals, marketers, and directors to give you the full picture on trending topics.

Competition Over Surgical Robots

The COVID-19 pandemic propelled the concept of replacing human workers with robots to do both complex and simple work, in an effort to mitigate spreading the virus. In the AlphaSense platform, we noticed an increasing trend in conversations around automation in the MedTech realm, more specifically, the use of robots in surgery.

Intuitive Surgical Inc. (ISRG) continues to be at the forefront of this market, as it is one of the largest companies to produce medical machinery that improves the clinical outcomes of patients through minimally invasive surgery. However, the company’s recent drop in stock valuation has left many discussing the barriers of adopting the ISRG’s Da Vinci Intuitive system into their practices:

One of the major talking points has been the cost and financial toll that comes with integrating the system:

“Price is one. It has tremendous scope, because a lot of patients would find it appealing. I think, again, the cost is going to be a limiting factor. I believe that’s not just an Indian problem. That’s a global problem.”

– A Senior Bariatric and Robotic Surgeon at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi | Expert Transcript

“There’s a lot of stuff that should be taken into consideration before buy or rent the robot because we can rent it here in France. When a hospital decides to invest in a robot…they consider the number of patients that come to this hospital, the number of prosthetic surgeries done at this establishment [and have to question] is it cost-effective to buy the robot or not?

– A Doctor at Grand Hôpital de l’Est Francilien, France | Expert Transcript

As price is a major roadblock from the company’s tech becoming more globally adopted, competitors like Medtronic (MDT) have emerged to take advantage of where ISRG falls short. MDT is growing their pipeline and competitively offering their products to take advantage of ISRG’s high entry price point.

“Intuitive is better, but Medtronic has the capacity and capabilities to develop more products and they have key developments in the pipeline. They’re with equal entity. The only thing that Medtronic always has the advantage of is that they cover the whole hospital, all divisions. They can always bundle one division with another. They can offer you the robots for free, but in exchange, you need to buy all the extents in the cardio business, whatever. That’s the competitive advantage they have, and they have contacts.”

– A former Intuitive Surgical Inc. Regional Director of South Europe, Turkey | Expert Transcript

ISRG’s pricing may be a barrier that opens the door for more competition, with Johnson & Johnson even taking a stake in the race for robotic surgical devices. But ISRG still seems to be positioned as a front-runner, according to a few analysts.

“At a very high level, if somebody who could potentially impact da Vinci, I think J & J and Medtronic are the two major player that could stand up to da Vinci in terms of competition and challenge them. Three years down the road, I think their adoption will still be minimal just because they will still be trying to clear their product for different clinical spaces rather than due to being the first-mover advantage and have a general surgery indication is going to allow them to continue to have the edge.”

– A former Medtronic Market Director | Expert Transcript

Ultimately, ISRG’s longevity as an industry leader for surgically invasive medical devices positions the company in a financially secure place, even though their entry-price point is dissuading large countries from adopting or integrating more of the technology. Competitors have already recognized this gap within ISRG’s pipeline and continue to develop products that will fill it. However, their fight to gain market share will take time, analysts believe.

AI in Healthcare

Conversations around replacing workers with machine learning-based technologies and utilizing AI to do more repetitive, menial work are permeating across various medical realms from radiology and pathology all the way to dermatology and beyond. Many experts believe that the potential of AI has not yet been fully realized by companies and how it could dramatically alter treatments for diseases and conditions. Even large MedTech players like Pfizer and CytoReason have recently inked multimillion-dollar contracts to begin implementing AI drug pipelines.

The supply of data, and how medical professionals leverage it to treat their patients, is a significant area for opportunity growth:

“Data use in health care is exploding. Data is the new oil across industries, but healthcare, in a sense, it’s underutilized oil in all other ways. Patients are currently being treated by physicians, with very limited data involved in clinical decision making and very much with human brain processing. I think that’s still very necessary in a lot of ways but there is a huge room for clinical care to be improved through better use of data and computers helping that.”

“I think diagnostics can be improved by applying artificial intelligence and leveraging the data stores that we already have. I think that clinical decision-making can be improved. I think that quality metrics, like I mentioned across the board. Drug discovery too. I think that data is important in healthcare right now and will continue to be even more so moving forward. I think that clinical care would become more efficient, especially in diagnostic fields like radiology, pathology, and maybe even dermatology where there are clear objective metrics that machines are very good at determining. I do not think that we will be replacing clinicians, but I do think that the efficiency and hopefully the cost will go down, efficiency will go up as we apply more AI into these fields.”

– The Director of Clinical Engagement at Rhino Health | Expert Transcript

Though, the expert believes there are some barriers that have prevented AI from becoming more a mainstream feature of healthcare. Communication variations, HIPAA and foreign policies prevent certain data from being shared between hospitals.

“The biggest hurdles in leveraging data right now in healthcare are the messiness of the data. Every health system records their data in different ways. Some use Celsius, some use Fahrenheit, some track vital signs every 5 minutes, every 15 minutes, etc. All of these nuances make it so that if you have a hospital like Duke and UNC, even though they’re located near one another, they could be talking totally different languages.”

“Continuing that metaphor, the next barrier to using data in healthcare is that Duke and UNC will never share their data with each other for many reasons. HIPAA prevents a lot of data sharing. HIPAA is in the U.S., of course, but the regulatory environment outside of the U.S. is actually even more stringent. Europe has GDPR and Israel and Asian countries are also very stringent. They have GDPR-like regulations.”

– The Director of Clinical Engagement at Rhino Health | Expert Transcript 

Ultimately, without this cross-communication of data, diagnosing and treating patients is hindered due to these restrictions and the small amount of information physicians and doctors have access to.

“What the point of that is, you’re never going to get very deep insights from the data from only one hospital. In order to really get and unlock true insights, you need multiple datasets from multiple different hospitals. Yeah, so that’s what I would say about that. What would be more helpful, more tangible examples, or what do you think?”

– The Director of Clinical Engagement at Rhino Health | Expert Transcript

Developing Digital Therapeutics

Digital therapeutics has become an emerging avenue for businesses and companies to directly connect with their consumers. Digital therapeutics are evidence-based, clinically evaluated software and devices that can be used to treat an array of diseases and disorders. They take form in mobile applications and other platforms, and MedTech leaders are becoming increasingly aware of how they provide the opportunity to connect with their consumers in new and exciting ways.

“There is the ability to have a direct 1-to-1 relationship with the consumer. Depending on the product, I would say the vast majority of products in the healthcare space today are not sold directly to the consumer. You have to go through someone, either having to go through your doctor or the pharmacy or to go directly to a retailer of some sort to buy it. There’s always a disconnection from those brands.”

“The app also allows for the ability to have that closer direct connection to a consumer and getting their voice, also getting to know more about them is always helpful from a marketing perspective. A little bit more indirectly speaking, there is the first-party data aspect which as we go into a future that’s going to be more highly regulated and more privacy safe, having that information for more direct marketing in a digital space, the value is increased exponentially.”

– A Precision Marketing Manager at Sanofi | Expert Transcript

Experts even believe that in the near future, more MedTech companies will be embracing digital therapeutics and spend more money creating digital extensions of their brand to provide medical access to all consumers.

“In that respect, I think that given time, they’re going to be just as popular and scalable and people will be using them more often. Today, I don’t think that people are even aware of them as much yet that not that much money has been spent to make people aware. On the consumer side, the value add, that’s all very dependent on if it’s that service I just mentioned, it’s pretty straightforward.”

– A Precision Marketing Manager at Sanofi | Expert Transcript

“Software as a medical device is something that has existed for a long time, but not a user interface for the patient that they can access on a mobile device and digital therapeutics. My understanding of the goal of digital therapeutics was always to improve access for patients. I think there is absolutely a need and absolutely going to be a development in the next 3-5 years if you will see digital therapeutics being used more and more.”

– A Science Liaison and Associate Director at Sandoz | Expert Transcript

Replacing the Traditional with Telemedicine

With the success of companies like BetterHelp and TalkSpace, experts are seeing an emerging wave of competition in telehealth therapy. The COVID-19 pandemic ramped up wide-spread demand for access to therapeutic and psychological services, and accordingly, MedTech leaders are responding.

The digital spaces these companies are occupying are allowing for clients to interact with their counselors in ways that traditional, in-person sessions could not provide. And experts believe that regardless of the format, telehealth therapy is just as effective.

“A lot of people are more open to therapy through telehealth and it is effective. I’ve been doing it the past two years full-time and I was skeptical about doing trauma work on it. When we shift from in-person work to telehealth work, there is a different shift in our work. You work from having someone within the same space. You can read their body language and facial expression. You can address crisis situations in a different way than when you are on a telehealth platform. Not necessarily I have all the clinical experiences, but the shift from being in-person into a telehealth, how we can address, for example, a crisis situation.”

“In Talkspace, they provided texting and video and their voice texting, voice messages. They have peer groups. They assign case managers for us, somebody you can go back and ask about like, “Hey, I’m having a challenge with this and this and that. What do you think would be appropriate as a telehealth format?” Being supported was very important to me [as a therapist] because I am shifting from in-person using the same skills. All these assets were helpful.”

– A Prior Online Therapist at Talkspace | Expert Transcript

In the height of the pandemic, more than just behavioral medical services moved to online platforms to treat patients. And while this may be a trend that continues once the pandemic has ended, experts question how effective conducting other medical services would translate in a digital setting.

“Patients love telehealth. Behavioral health is number one and that’s not going away. They’ll still always be. Before the pandemic, all the payers were shying away from telehealth services. For many services, since the pandemic everyone realized, ‘Oh wow, we can do this for certain services. Why wouldn’t we?’ Behavioral health, everyone has more access to care.”

“More often, yes, it is utilized much more and it is just like, not even a Zoom, it could be just a phone call. There are certain services that cannot be done obviously over the phone if it’s a procedural service. There are some other services like speech therapy and other services besides behavioral health. Other services performed via telehealth, I just feel it’s missing an important element for patient care. Seeing a psychiatrist? Definitely. Yeah. That will be here to stay.”

– A Payment Policy Manager at Allways Health Partners | Expert Transcript

As we navigate the current pressures of inflation and supply chain disruptions, all while a potential recession looms in the backdrop, the most urgent question remains: what role will digital health play in the short and long-term future? We answer this question and more in our recent on-demand webinar, The Future of Digital Health: Empowering Better Human Health.

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Tim Hafke

Formerly a writer for publications and startups, Tim Hafke is a Content Marketing Specialist at AlphaSense. His prior experience includes developing content for healthcare companies serving marginalized communities.


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