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AdvaMed 2012 Takes on Consumer-Centric Healthcare

Last week I attended AdvaMed2012, held in Boston for the first time (it usually takes place in our nation’s capital). Well, watch out D.C.! As one of the nation’s largest med tech clusters, Massachusetts put on a great show, rolling out the red carpet for more than 2,000 executives (making it the largest event to date) and proving that this is the “hub” of innovation not just for hi tech or even biotech, but also medical devices and diagnostics.

A visit by Gov. Deval Patrick reinforced the important role that med tech plays in the state’s economy. Gov. Patrick was on hand to learn about local companies like Abiomed and Haemonetics, as well as for the announcement that Israel-based Argo Medical Technologies—the company behind ReWalk—is opening its U.S. headquarters in Marlborough, Mass. Welcome Argo!

In addition to a busy show floor, AdvaMed2012 offered sessions on topics ranging from business development & finance and eHealth to in vitro diagnostics and reimbursement. I attended what appeared to be one of the most popular sessions (if the standing-room-only crowd was any indication) on “The Consumerization of Medical Devices/The Medicalization of Consumer Devices.” Featuring executives from Covidien, InfoBionic, Qualcomm and Medtronic, the session was built on the premise that within the next 10 years, as much as 50 percent of all healthcare will shift from hospitals and clinics to homes and communities.

Not surprising to those of us in healthcare PR, that shift is driven by new consumer technologies (think smart phones, tablets and laptops) that are putting healthcare literally at our fingertips and giving patients a whole new level of control (and influence). India is a great example of where this is happening already. Most of the major cell carries now offer physician visits by phone. In a country where many still travel long distances to visit a doctor, the service is growing exponentially; today, carriers are hosting 50,000+ calls per day.

So what does this all mean for med tech companies? For starters, it means new roles and new business models. Qualcomm, well known as a wireless provider, now has a division dedicated to healthcare.  That’s right, a whole team focused on finding new ways to bring health and healthcare to mobile devices. Covidien, well-versed in selling a wide array of medical devices and diagnostics to clinicians and hospitals, is now working to figure out how best to sell to a new breed of customer called “the consumer.”

It also means a new platform for getting, sharing and…wait for it…monetizing data. Take Johnson & Johnson and its new series of Band-Aids featuring The Muppets (who doesn’t love Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog?). Put a Band-Aid on your little one’s boo boo, download the free Band-Aid Magic Vision app, scan the bandages and the Muppets come to life in the palm of your hand…that’s right, they sing and dance for you. What toddler (not to mention adult!) wouldn’t love that? So now J&J has LOTS of repeat business AND valuable info on the parents who downloaded the app. Brilliant.

Or how about Cellnovo (UK). The company developed an insulin pump system linked to a mobile handset and integrated with an online portal. Built on a gaming platform, the system enables diabetics on insulin not only to track their blood sugar (important), administer insulin (critical), but also share information online with their doctors, and, looking toward the future, order supplies from partner vendors, connect via a social network with other patients, and much more (smart). 

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But while the possibilities and opportunities are vast, so are the challenges…and the questions. Most med tech systems were not designed for the mobile platform. From technical issues to legal and regulatory roadblocks, moving healthcare from the hospital to the iPad involves much more than just flipping a switch. Sooo…..

How will companies continue to protect patient data?

Will med tech companies have to restructure from disease-based business units to ones organized around “in-home” or “in-community” technology platforms serving multiple disease states?

How will mobile devices restructure patient/physician interaction?

How does the shift to mobile and in-home affect/effect the move toward accountable care?

How, in the new model, does everyone get paid for their piece of the pie?

The answer, right now, and in part, is two-fold: “we don’t really know yet” and “we’re all going to have to work together” (revenue share anyone?). So while the trajectory may be clear, the path is still fuzzy. No worries, us PR folks will figure out a way to message around it 🙂

By Marisa Borgasano

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Dave Close

Dave Close

Managing Director at MSLGROUP

Dave Close has worked in technology and healthcare PR since the internet was a fishing accessory. His long view and appreciation of the absurd guide his opinions about business, life and coffee.

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