1. How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the MedTech industry in Asia-Pacific? Were there any silver linings brought about by the pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic without a doubt is the single most notable event in our recent history. It has put healthcare front and centre on the agenda for governments, healthcare companies and patients. The silver lining is that we’ve also witnessed the strength and the impetus for change when all these players come together to drive better outcomes for patients, at a scale never seen before.
Above all for MedTech, COVID-19 has been a catalyst, and likewise for Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices, in hastening innovations that combine technology and medical capabilities to address the pressing needs of patients and healthcare partners. The exigency of the crisis also supercharged newer ways of thinking and working that is much needed for the sector particularly in technology investment.
2. What are the challenges faced when it comes to innovation in this space?
Asia-Pacific has always been ahead of the curve in creating a thriving environment for new technologies and digital solutions. A number of countries across the region are pioneering in areas such as digital and robotic surgery. I’m particularly impressed with how China is leaning into patient and clinical insights and translating that into value creation in MedTech. However, more work is needed to deepen the understanding on the benefits of these technologies to the patient, surgeon, hospital as well as to the efficacy of the healthcare system. The regulatory and reimbursement systems are also maturing.
More broadly, software as a medical device is an ongoing area that is in its infancy in many markets, despite the acceleration of digital solutions during COVID-19 and will be one barrier of challenge to address in Asia-Pacific. Data standardisation and security is also another area that need more attention.
3. Is MedTech innovation more critical than ever in addressing the healthcare needs of today? Why?
We’re seeing significant changes across the region in term of quality of care, as well as patient needs and expectations.
Paired with burgeoning consumption and the ageing population in the region. By 2050, we are expecting one in four people in Asia-Pacific to be aged 60 or older 1, signalling a huge unmet need in healthcare. MedTech will look to fill this pressing need to reshape the way healthcare is delivered to enable patients to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Think about lung cancer, the number one cause of mortality around the world. Innovation that enables earlier, less invasive diagnoses and more localised interventions as opposed to lung re-sectioning can completely transform the standard in lung cancer management.
The sector has always been evolving and bringing in new innovative solutions. But what is clear is that we need to accelerate the innovation journey even more and it’s now more crucial than ever with rapidly evolving healthcare needs. Asia-Pacific, for instance, is estimated to be the largest patient population with chronic diseases, yet access to care remains limited in many parts of the region.
4. How can MedTech innovation future-proof the delivery of healthcare?
To future-proof the delivery of healthcare, we need MedTech solutions that allow for adaptability in our healthcare systems – be it 3D printing, digital surgery, virtual consultations, virtual professional education or telementoring as well as tele-health. These are all important in helping improve access to healthcare. The future is uncertain so it’s important to bring to market solutions that can be adapted easily.
We believe strengthening the industry is the way forward to step up the progress of MedTech innovation, and this means fostering a collaborative culture that in turn creates a thriving and sustainable ecosystem of startups that can hasten the sector’s stride towards stronger innovation.
We’ve had a long-standing commitment to supporting start-ups and fostering a robust MedTech ecosystem in the region. We are one of the founding sponsor and supporter of MedTech Innovator, the largest accelerator of medical devices companies in the world. Opharmic, grand prize winner of its Asia-Pacific Accelerator program for 2021, is one of many start-ups that have benefited from such collaborations, having accelerated its development to bring a non-invasive alternative for eye drug delivery to the world.
“In addition, we are rapidly activating our own digital innovations like those under the VELYS Digital Surgery platform, including robotic-assisted surgery, to elevate the orthopaedic care experience, and also regional partnerships like TINAVI to expand digital surgery footprint in China and Navbit to introduce a digital navigation system for hip implant in Australia.”4.
5. What does the future of MedTech look like?
Beyond 2021, the innovation agenda is going to continue to be important. The pandemic has emphasised the importance of healthcare and as the population continues to age, there continues to be new challenges but also opportunities.
Looking ahead, we are aiming to leverage collaborations and partnerships that will be integral in driving MedTech innovation and create an enhanced healthcare journey tailored for patients and healthcare professionals in the region. I am confident that Asia can lead the world in uncovering how to digitise the MedTech experience for patients and customers.