The COVID-19 pandemic has been an event that has undoubtedly challenged the med-tech landscape. It pressed pause on “normal life” as it became the global number one priority. The need for prioritisation was felt very strongly within the med-tech world. The volatility of the situation led this industry to advance at a pace more rapidly than ever. In some respects, it led to a whole host of new opportunities. However, it also came hand in hand with some challenges which needed to be overcome.
With a vast increase in demand for some specialised products with very short delivery time-scale expectations, alongside a sharp drop-off in demand for less urgent activities and procedures, healthcare companies had to revise supply chains in a way that was never done before. BD experienced this first-hand as it was at the forefront of providing materials for the UK COVID-19 vaccination programme. BD successfully overcame the challenges of this unprecedented demand situation and delivered 177 million injection needles and syringes.1 Delivering years’ worth of supplies within such a tight frame is an example of the revolution in the healthcare supply over the past two years.
Digital health solutions took the world by storm at the start of the pandemic, needing to compress years’ worth of development into just weeks. The ability to provide remote access to patient care increased exponentially. As we become increasingly in tune with the world of technology, the med-tech industry must continue to improve technologies and solutions to keep up with new demands and expectations.
Prioritising efficiency and safety
Efficiency and safety are key pillars of a successful healthcare system. Increasing staff shortages and demand for new and safe products, whilst coping with the overall backlogs in the system have put continuous pressures on the NHS and HSE.2
Patient and staff safety is a paramount goal we must not lose sight of. It is great to see new innovations that enhance patient experience, improve healthcare system productivity and enhance overall outcomes. For example, GPs introduced remote triage systems to accurately assess patients before offering them an appointment3, reducing unnecessary visits to the clinic and therefore enhancing efficiency and safety. This introduction also accelerated the progression of the NHS Long Term plan within this field, as the NHS hoped that by 2023/4 all patients would have the right to an online consultation prior to an in-person appointment.4 By April 2020, over 90 percent of GP consultations were already conducted remotely.5
Collaboration for long-term success
It is essential for med-tech companies to retain an effective partnership between health systems, industry and governments to attempt to sustain the timely delivery of medical products. We have engaged and collaborated in partnership with NHS trusts to ensure that the millions of BD products manufactured annually arrive to the designated location where and when they are needed.
The pressures on the current workforce are great, but they can and should be trained and educated to absorb innovation and technology to be able to react with confidence to new developments in this field with a view to improving work efficiency and producing better patient outcomes. A well-trained, competent NHS workforce is one BD supports through clinical education and product training. Supporting change management as the NHS evolves technology is key to adoption of new practice and solutions and products. Industry is a key partner in working with clinical staff to achieve this common goal to allow the benefits the NHS seek in efficiency, safety and outcomes to be realised.
Accelerated digital transformation will continue to play a role in delivering the highest levels of safe and efficient care. The challenge remains how to transform digitally. This is a technology question as well as a change management one. Where, when and what to invest in is a challenge we see often, and the benefits are sometimes not immediate in terms of efficiency and cost savings but can be transformative in the longer term. Med-tech companies can be the backbone of this transformation, supporting the NHS through this journey by providing products and systems to enhance patient care whilst lowering procedural costs.
BD is committed to all aspects of healthcare and to helping those that deliver it. Our goal is to use medical technology to advance the efficiency and safety of the healthcare system.
Date: 27 April