By: Liv Williamsen
INNOVATION WILL PREVAIL
We are living in unprecedented times where fear and uncertainty about our health and economy are taking a toll. It is unlikely that medical device companies will interact with providers and health systems in the same way as they have in the past. Historically reps could come and go from hospitals – supporting physicians, nurses, and care teams with the products they sell. They are as integral to patient care delivery as the hospital care team. Often, they are the ones with the most intimate knowledge and experience with the product – covering multiple procedures a day with different physicians across a multitude of hospitals. Hospitals have clamped down on the ease of vendors coming and going from their respective facilities far before COVID-19; however, now more than ever rep access to hospitals is turning virtual. Is your company ready for this shift?
There are 3 challenges we see facing the future of healthcare in a COVID-19 world: financial viability for medtech and healthcare providers, the ability to efficiently treat a backlog of patients, and limited access to medical device sales reps to hospitals.
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CHALLENGE #1: FINANCIAL VIABILITY FOR MEDTECH & PROVIDERS
In January we would not imagine the challenges we face today - proactive cancellation of procedures, hospitals shutting down, physicians unable to pay staff or rent, med device layoffs, and much more. Organizations big and small are working to find solutions for how they support their business when everything has changed.
Companies around the country, like Conformis, have announced furloughs or worse yet bankruptcy. Similarly, big companies aren't immune to the hardships - Stryker and Boston Scientific have publicly stated their earnings are being significantly impacted by Coronavirus. We are being told by companies big and small that they are facing great uncertainty because the end is unknown. Likewise, hospitals show signs of turbulence. Becker’s Hospital Review published an article looking at 10 hospitals who have announced staff furloughs. In this article they mention that the loss of non-emergent procedures requires immediate action toward cost reduction.
CHALLENGE #2: WHICH PROCEDURES WILL OCCUR?12
The path forward for the near term is straightforward for patients in critical condition will be treated.
For patients who have been told that their procedures have been postponed, they live in hope that they won’t have to wait long. The pitfalls of an overburdened system:
- The risk of having no, to very limited PPE will continue to be a problem.
- Deterioration of a patients overall health will put them at greater risk of contracting Coronavirus.
- The level of severity of their condition has increased, creating higher acuity.
What will the long-term effects look like for hospitals, patients, physicians, and med device companies? No one knows, but it is safe to say it will never be the same care system as before COVID-19. It will take months, maybe even years for us to understand the overall impact the pandemic has had on healthcare. There will be a backlog of patients.15 Most likely individuals on all levels from provider to consumer will need to evolve and accept a new way of delivering and getting care. Virtual healthcare (telehealth), as adopted early in the Coronavirus pandemic, will become the norm. Remote, cloud-based solutions for case support, proctoring, and training will no longer be the exception but the standard.
CHALLENGE #3: ACCESS
Medical device sales and clinical representatives find access to hospitals and procedure suites restricted to essential personnel only. Limited, to no, access to hospitals poses a threat to medical device companies bottom-line. Medical device companies face difficult decisions – risk of a surgical complication caused by their device, or risk of COVID-19 exposure for their reps. Neither option sets the company up for success. Moreover, medical device manufacturer's pride themselves in their high level of technical support and expertise. How can they do this if access to hospitals is limited and/or the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is too high?
“IN THE MIDDLE OF DIFFICULTY, LIES OPPORTUNITY.” ALBERT EINSTEIN
Innovation will prevail. Now is the time to innovate in order to solve problems. As a result, companies are leaning in and trying to solve problems during the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis is requiring us all to work together and think outside of the box to find solutions.
We are living in an era where remote case support is critical. Reps need to be able to communicate, see, and show how to use their products in procedures. ExplORer Surgical is leading the way with its digitally integrated platform that has HIPAA compliant video case support, remote proctoring, and on-demand collaboration and training. The platform provides seamless communication between the surgical tech, RN, doctor, and remote representative. Certainly, medical device companies can be a part of the solution during this pandemic – supporting their business, keeping people employed, and keeping people alive. Surgery doesn’t stop. Don’t let COVID-19 stop critical case support; now is the time to adopt innovative technology to support remote access to procedures.