Hospitals

A new model of surgery for 2030: De-skilled, decentralized and device-driven

What’s the vision of medical device firms as they innovate for a new model of care, not just in the U.S. but globally?

What they see, according to a new report, is a two-tiered healthcare system that’s demanding more sophisticated, efficient devices for surgeries and, at the same time, more simple devices that can be used by patients, or “consumers.” Technology design and development firm Cambridge Consultants hosted a workshop with participants from companies like Covidien, Boston Scientific, C.R. Bard, Philips Healthcare and Harvard Medical School, and compiled their insight into a report that lays out the landscape for surgery in 2030.

A few major insights emerged from the workshop, the first being that frontline care organizations will consolidate and create international “mega hospitals.” A pickup in hospital M&A activity over the last few years shows we’re already headed in that direction. With that, care organizations will shift toward a common model of care and management, and result in a robust set of industry best practices.

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Low-risk surgical procedures, and the tools needed to perform them, will increasingly be designed to be carried out in physicians’ offices or drop-in clinics, reserving use of high-cost infrastructure only for the most serious of procedures that require those resources — something we’re already seeing in gynecology and urology. Many patients will then recover at home with the use of monitoring devices.

For medical device makers, this means the move toward vertical integration, or “ownership of a disease.” They’ll also need to learn how to serve customers and not just treat patients as two-tier health systems develop, the report proposes.

In the primary tier, traditional care providers will treat only life-threatening conditions, but a secondary tier will serve patients paying out-of-pocket for elective or non-life-threatening treatments. Data and outcomes will drive payers’ decisions (again, already happening) in the primary tier and the second tier will operate like a consumer industry. That will likely create even more tension between payers, who are focused on affordable care, and patients, who will increasingly seek control over their healthcare experience.

Although continued advances in diagnostics will enable earlier diagnosis of disease, the report proposes that that may not always be a good thing, as a condition may be identified before it makes sense or is possible to intervene, adding stress to the patient and the healthcare system.

As elective procedures get passed down from surgeons, the demand for specialist physicians will intensify to a level beyond what will be supplied. Devices, then, must evolve to automate repetitive tasks and remove unnecessary ones. That means more advanced visualization and navigation systems; more customized, sensor-embedded surgical devices; and tunable implants that will adapt to their changing patients.

Ultimately, innovations that survive in the new healthcare ecosystem will be those that both produce better outcomes and improve efficiency for the provider. Fortunately, it seems that many of today’s young companies are already moving in that direction.

[Photo from imagerymagestic]

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