Medical devices: where the speed of innovation meets the molasses of FDA approval!  Despite that fact, the medical device health care sector consistently brings science and invention to life.  2016 has been a year of mergers & acquisitions, new products and pioneering technologies. This piece looks at the rest of 2016.  Specifically, what trends are still gaining steam and what developments will become mainstays in 2017 – we found five – four-and-a-half actually, because the last one is a gimme.

Health caBlue Belt Technologies Navio Surgical Systemre’s new manifest destiny: robotic surgery.

It’s nearly a two decade old innovation but a bit of “land grab” right now because EVERYONE’S getting in on it.  Starting in 2000 with da Vinci Surgery, to the 2015 joint venture between Johnson & Johnson and Google’s Verily Verb Surgical, and Smith and Nephew’s acquisition of Blue Belt Technologies and its Navio Surgical System– medical device manufacturers are looking for the edge that allows them to increase operating room efficiency and revolutionize the surgical experience for their customers.  Looking ahead, device manufacturers that combine machine learning, advanced imagery, and use an open-source technology will own the market.

“User behavior” will become the “new standard” in medical device development

In July, Outcomes Based Healthcare launched its OBH Sense360 smartphone app designed to tell users when they may be sick. The app tracks how a user interacts with his/her phone – activity, engagement, online search behavior – and will ping the user with health updates.  This is the tip of the iceberg folks, we will see all kinds of medical device manufacturers leveraging user behavior to create new apps, platforms, services and devices that monitor our behavior to help diagnose and treat our health conditions.  The next challenge: helping providers decipher the potential avalanche of personal data coming from our devices in a meaningful and effective way.  On the flip side, these apps will provide desperately needed data to fuel anyone’s hypochondriac tendencies.

Value-based health care coming to a medical device manufacturer near you. Value-based health care
According to Professor Michael Porter with Harvard University, value-based health care is a framework for restructuring health care systems with the overarching goal of value for patients. To this end, medical device customers (payers and providers) are starting to operate in a value-based reimbursement model which means medical device manufacturers (the smart ones) will start providing services and technologies designed to help their customers address the new payment models.  This trend was encapsulated in Zimmer Biomet’s July 2016 launch of its Signature Solutions product.

Impact of the behavioral health sector on medical devices

Telemedicine applications and technologically-enhanced patient monitoring and reporting are not new to the behavioral health care sector.  And, we will continue to see a plethora of technology to help patients self-treat the symptoms of their depression, anxiety and PTSD.  The technology powering devices is moving much faster than the science.  So, there is a bit of “buyer beware” when purchasing technologies that may not have been proven effective or approved by the FDA.  But moving into 2017, we will see more growth in behavioral health diagnostic tools from medical device manufacturers and biopharma companies.

And finally, thanks to the Internet of Things (here’s the “1/2” of the 4 ½ trends), we will experience an acceleration in technological advances, challenging all of us – not just the FDA – to keep up with (and responsibly use) the innovations we have created.

What do you think is in the cards for medical devices in 2017?