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The MedTech Boom: Five Considerations to Optimize Viability of Health Innovations
December 13, 2017

The MedTech Boom: Five Considerations to Optimize Viability of Health Innovations

Rick Burnett, PharmD, FACHE, is the chief operating officer of CompleteRx and leads the day-to-day operations delivery for customers. With more than 25 years of experience in hospital pharmacy management, Rick has worked in a variety of sets from small rural hospitals to multisystem academic settings and is currently a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Artificial intelligence. Breakthroughs in 3D printing applications. Driverless cars.

The future is bright with technological innovation intended to improve every corner of our lives and, accordingly, there has been a virtual explosion in advancements designed to address the many challenges faced by patients, hospitals, and healthcare professionals.

Mobile health apps are plentiful, and a significant portion of them now assist with medication compliance and managing chronic diseases at home. A preponderance of health-related wearable technology leverages the power of biosensors, which can be placed in a watch or a patch on the skin, implanted subcutaneously, or swallowed like a pill. And, applications for these devices run the spectrum. A smart patch that uses nanoparticles to diagnose health problems and—potentially—administer drugs is currently in development. The FDA just approved an oral medication treating neurological disorders that has an imbedded sensor that will send data to caregivers to let them know when or if patients have taken their medication. Other sensors are available to track glucose levels and deliver insulin via a pump to help patients suffering with diabetes.

Such innovations are doubtless exciting to healthcare professionals, but it’s a long path from beta testing a promising concept to widespread adoption, and unforeseen pitfalls are plentiful. What should leaders in managed care be considering in order to either help these bright ideas reach their full potential or decide which may be nonstarters for their organizations? Asking a few pointed questions can help to jump start the conversation.

For starters, can we afford it?
It’s fairly well-known that many of today’s hospitals are under incredible financial strain. Whether having to invest significant capital to remain competitive, keeping up with changing pharmacy regulations to stay compliant, or reducing reimbursements, hospital executives must be prudent with spending and the bottom line. In that environment, even if a pilot program proves new technology will save money in the long term, hospitals may struggle to come up with the cash to implement it today.

Investigating alternative financial options may be required to make adoption of a new technology or innovation viable. For example, might insurers cover the cost of the new technology for beneficiaries as part of their prevention strategies? Might government agencies subsidize manufacturers to offer discounts to hospitals and patients? Without a path to payment for new technologies, developing and testing them may prove moot.

Could adoption of the technology expose the organization to additional IT risks?
Hospitals and health systems are vulnerable to cyberattacks, as evidenced by numerous stories about ransomware attacks on hospitals in the past few years. So, the risk of exposure of electronic health record (EHR) or private patient data is a real one, and hospitals are already working to shore up their primary systems and hardware to guard against such a threat.

But, what about smaller devices, intended to share patient health data between patient, provider and hospital, that don’t remain in the possession of the organization? Where would liabilities lie if personal health information was leaked through use of such devices? Or, could a faulty device even pose a physical danger to a patient who isn’t under direct provider supervision?

Organizations’ information technology and legal teams, both, would do well to pay attention to such potential risks that might come with the adoption of the latest technology trends.

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