Peter Bannister is a highly experienced C-Level Executive and Engineering Operations Leader. He is currently Healthcare Sector Chair, Institution of Engineering and Technology and Chief Customer Success Officer, Mirada Medical Ltd. He caught up with Justin Carpenter our Senior Healthcare Consultant to discuss the impact COVID-19 has had on medical technology transformation.
Justin: What technical transformation have you seen happen as a result of COVID-19 and the current restrictions?
Peter: The current situation has brought reliance on remote treatment, such as telemedicine to the fore but has also seen manufacturers move to support healthcare providers whose own workforce are now operating remotely, for example in radiology and cancer treatment planning. In terms of addressing covid-19 itself, there has been an overwhelming shift within the industry (helped by notable examples outside such as Formula 1) towards producing equipment such as PPE, ventilators but also to apply techniques such as machine learning ("AI") to aid the diagnosis of the disease. We are also seeing new efforts in digital health to help in tracking the spread of the virus.
Justin: We have seen more GP’s and hospitals turn to digital triage to adapt, what changes do you think and hope continue post COVID-19?
Peter: Even after the current restrictions are lifted, there will be a significant backlog in treatment for all conditions, not just COVID-19. Therefore, I expect to see a sustained reliance on approaches such as video GP consultations which may finally prove their longer-term value for cost-effective health care in general.
One critical area that has been highlighted is that of social care. This is an area which as unfairly played a minor role compared with interventional healthcare but in the current climate, care of the elderly as well as mental wellbeing of the general population under isolation has quickly become a deserved priority and will hopefully lead to a sustained focus on technology for these areas well after the pandemic has subsided.
Justin: What is your view on the appetite to change and encourage innovation from the key stake holders eg Regulatory bodies, healthcare facilities, medical staff and patients after COVID? We’ve seen rapid development of ventilators with all stakeholders really speeding up the process to make something production ready. What has been achieved in days and weeks would probably have taken years before?
Peter: I see this as more of a transient, but nonetheless encouraging that a broad range of stakeholder can respond in such an agile manner when faced with global crisis of this scale. That said, it will be interesting to see how the regulatory system adapts in the wake of this given an already stretched set of resources given the MDD to MDR transition in the EU. In the shorter term, I expect that the development and validation of a vaccine will require some new thinking in terms of clinical validation and approval given that the clinical trial industry is being challenged to maintain recruitment and study completion targets.
Justin: What trends do you see emerging as the Healthcare sector looks to drive efficiency to boost capacity and develop greater resilience? What areas will they focus on eg digital triage, diagnostics and what technologies will be most commonly used?
Peter: An overarching trend is that of the individual taking greater responsibility for the effect of their behaviour on the management of the virus - therefore I see technologies which allow prevention to be pushed further downstream to patients, as well as those which allow others to participate in augmenting the workforce shortage, to see some uptake.
Justin: How does the technology/medtech provider need to change in the way the product or service is delivered? What has the industry learnt during this time?
Peter: A positive has been that technologies such as remote diagnosis and self-testing have been pushed to the fore and validated. Therefore, I hope this model will see greater adoption in the future, not least due to the cost and environmental benefits of less travel. However, many of the same challenges that the industry has been tackling will clearly still be in place when this is over and perhaps, we can expect to see further contributions from the other sectors who have recently lent their resources to the effort against Covid-19.