Medical Technology Innovations

Enhancing healthcare delivery

GSK Velu, Vice Chairman Metropolis Health Care Ltd Chennai, India.

Globally, nations are struggling to meet healthcare costs. This is a challenge that we need to meet without compromising on the sustenance of the business. The medical technology industry has been thriving on innovations. While the focus has been on better outcome and quality of life, it is time that the focus also includes affordability.

With the convergence of many scientific and technology breakthroughs, the pace of medical invention is accelerating, inspiring hope for better clinical outcomes with less invasive procedures and shorter recovery times, all in lower cost settings thereby creating tremendous value. These changes can drive demand for new lower cost diagnosis, monitoring and treatment procedures.

Globally, nations are struggling to meet healthcare costs. This is a challenge that must be met without compromising on the sustenance of the business. The medical technology industry has been thriving on innovations. While the focus has been on better outcome and quality of life, it is time that the focus also includes affordability.

Medical technology encompasses a wide range of healthcare products (devices, equipment as well as Consumables / supplies) that are intended by its manufacturer to be used specifically for diagnostic and / or therapeutic purposes. It encompasses any instrument, apparatus, appliance, implant, in vitro reagent, software, material or other article, which is used, alone or in combination, for the following purposes:

  • • diagnosis, prevention, monitoring, treatment or alleviation of disease
  • • diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, alleviation of or compensation for an injury
  • • investigation, replacement, modification or support of the anatomy or of a physiological process
  • • supporting or sustaining life
  • • control of conception
  • • disinfection of medical devices
  • • providing information for medical or diagnostic purposes by means of in vitro examination of specimens derived from the human body which does not achieve its primary intended action in or on the human body by pharmacological, immunological or metabolic means, but which may be assisted in its intended function by such means.

Medical technology plays a strategic role in fostering the change of healthcare delivery towards better health outcomes. According to EUCOMED (the European medical technology industry association), Medical Technology extends and improves life. It alleviates pain, injury and handicap. Its role in healthcare is essential.

Incessant medical technology innovation enhances the quality and effectiveness of care. Billions of patients world-wide depend on medical technology at home, at the doctor’s, at hospital and in nursing homes.

With the convergence of many scientific and technology breakthroughs, the pace of medical invention is accelerating, resulting in better clinical outcomes, less invasive procedures and shorter recovery times, and thus improving overall health of people.

Medical technology in India

There can be no better example than India to illustrate the need for medical technology for improving healthcare delivery. The majority of India’s population cannot afford anything better than the most basic healthcare. There is a need to use medical technology effectively to address the yawning gap between demand and supply of healthcare services in India. Innovative products and business models are needed to make healthcare affordable and accessible to a larger percentage of the population.

Indian medical technology market - An overview

India’s medical equipment market—valued at US$2.7 billion in 2008—is Asia’s fourth largest (behind Japan, China, and South Korea) and is projected to reach US$6 billion by 2015. Domestic production supplies only 29 per cent of the market. Imports account for about 71 per cent. Medical technology is seen as one of the three key drivers of increasing healthcare accessibility. It is estimated that 35-40 per cent of a hospital project is allocated to medical technology. Therefore, it is imperative to devise ways to rationalise this cost by adopting some innovative methods including reducing the cost of medical technology research and development, encouraging indigenous production of medical devices, devising innovative ways of dealing with obsolescence, testing the new and upcoming business models of technology services etc.

Some pertinent questions

How did the Indian automotive industry become a self-sustaining industry? How did the information technology industry become a force to reckon with globally? How did the pharmaceutical industry turn a high-import country of drugs to one of the largest exporters of drugs in the world? By taking lessons from such successful models, can the Indian medical technology industry grow and in the process, make India

(A country that imports 71 per cent of its medical devices) self-sufficient based on indigenous innovation?

What would be the country’s vision today, if you have numerous PhD scientists, a steady supply of biomedical and electronics engineers, and medical device manufacturing facilities at its disposal? Would its vision change from what it was a year earlier, or would it remain the same? Could it be an untapped opportunity, knowing that the best people in the field, a supporting infrastructure, and an ecosystem of entrepreneurs raring to not only develop unique solutions for the local market but also put Indian medical technology industry on the global map?

Importing to innovation - A paradigm shift

Almost 71 per cent of the medical devices used in India are imported into the country. Most have not seen India as a primary low-cost labor destination or center of excellence for certain business operations. Companies can drive growth and position themselves for success by venturing into new markets beyond Tier 1 countries, and by pursuing breakthrough product and business model innovation. Such innovation among companies in India has been scant to date, although a few, such as Trivitron Healthcare, GE Healthcare and B. Braun, have done so. For example, Trivitron has established an innovation center within IIT Madras campus focused on cardiology, IVD, renal care, critical care solutions for India and emerging markets of the world, GE has developed a portfolio of innovative diagnostic imaging products etc. Some companies are also establishing and integrating their India operations with their global low-cost R&D and manufacturing organizations to attain higher quality.

As companies expand their market presence, it is often necessary to customise or tailor existing products to address new customer segments or unmet needs and to differentiate offerings from those of international and domestic competitors. This may include simplifying products by removing features that are less valuable, substituting materials with comparable but lower-cost options.

Impediments for indigenous medical technology manufacturing and innovation and industry growth

India’s medical technology industry needs to innovate to meet the demand of the local markets. The potential for growth lies in creating a huge talent base, targeted government policies, a central regulatory body, collaboration between research bodies such as IIT, and establishing quality standards.

  • • Some of the steps that Govt. can take include:
  • • Establishing MT manufacturing joint ventures in India
  • • To recognise medical technology as a separate & significant entity of healthcare
  • • To form a Department of Medical Technology (like dept. of Pharmaceuticals) under Ministry of Health or Science & Technology.
  • • Powerful financial incentives
  • • Create our own supportive regulatory system
  • • Supportive investment capacity (Subsidised loans for medical technology manufacturing / innovation).

Innovation in medical technology faces a lot of challenges that need to be addressed by government.

The challenge in medical technology innovation space can be addressed by creating a medical technology innovation eco-system which requires

  • • An education system that nurtures creativity
  • • An R&D culture and value system which supports both basic and applied research and technology development
  • • An industry culture which is keen to interact with the academia
  • • Government support
  • • A policy framework which encourages young people to enter scientific careers.

The Indian medical technology innovation eco system will include engineering, medical institutes, government (DST / DBT / ICMR) and domestic medical technology companies. A collaboration of industry-academia for innovative solutions will foster high levels of productivity. Creation of a central authority for holistic development of industry in India to drive non-regulatory and commercial growth (Dept. of MT under Ministry of Health or Science & Tech), sharing industry best practices and encouragement of overall development of industry are a few other notable steps to be taken by government and others in the eco-system.

To sum up, indigenous medical technology manufacturing and innovation is the key to bring cost-effective medical technology solutions specific to India and emerging markets of the world. Hence, significant efforts are needed for all participants in the medical technology ecosystem to stimulate innovation in, so that opportunities provided in the market can be capitalised up on by domestic companies and the consumers of healthcare services are benefited.

Author BIO

G S K Velu has over 20 years experience in the diagnostics and healthcare industry. He was awarded Rajiv Gandhi Shiromani award in 2007 and The Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2006 by GE & Modern Medicare. He is also the only person in the healthcare industry to receive ‘The ITM University Awards for Corporate Excellence for the year 2006. He has also published scientific papers in ‘Journal of Interfacial & Colloidal sciences’, USA and ‘Journal of Biophysics and Biomedical sciences’, USA.

Author Bio

GSK Velu