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Five Megatrends Driving the Future of Medical Devices

This post is a transcript of ‘Five Megatrends Driving the Future of Medical Devices,’ a 30-minute webinar presented by Director of Design and Innovation Strategy, Ryan Chen, and Design and Innovation Strategist, Anat Mooreville, PhD. Stream the webinar on-demand, below, and download the whitepaper.

At Bresslergroup, we’ve been researching the major shifts taking place in the healthcare industry that are expected to affect it for at least the next decade.

In this webinar we’ll share our perspective on why innovation is so critical in the healthcare industry, and we’ll share a framework we’ve developed to help companies deliver better innovation.


At Bresslergroup, the Design and Innovation Strategy team focuses on connecting business goals with customer needs to help our clients determine what their next innovation opportunity is. We have three objectives for Design and Innovation Strategy:

  • First: Strategic foresight, which better helps the company understand and prepare for the future of the industry, be it in three years or ten years.
  • Second: From that understanding, to help a company develop a product strategy to achieve that desirable future.
  • Third: To actualize on the strategy with tangible product innovation.

We’ve developed a framework to help companies in the health and wellness industry navigate these three objectives and better deliver the outcome.

future of medical devices webinar

01 – Why Now?: An Industry in Need of Innovation

We’ll start with, Why now? What are the current characteristics that are having an impact on healthcare today?

First, the healthcare system is struggling to cope with an unprecedented surge in healthcare needs. We have 60 percent of Americans currently living with at least one chronic disease; one out of three American adults are obese; and mental health claims have increased over a hundred percent over the past ten years.

And of course these diseases are incredibly costly. Nearly 85 percent of the nation’s annual healthcare costs went toward treating chronic and mental health conditions. And this will be exacerbated by our aging population. By 2030, one in five people will be over the age of 65.

Second is that healthcare is moving to value-based care to control spiraling costs and improve efficiency. Value-based care is a healthcare delivery model in which providers, including hospitals and physicians, are paid based on patient health outcomes rather than on the quantity of care they deliver. Of course this gives providers an incentive for keeping patients healthy.

And this model stresses collecting and sharing patient data so that care is coordinated and outcomes can be measured easily. And we can see how quickly these models are proliferating, especially in the United States.

And lastly, the consumerization of healthcare is opening the industry to new entrants and disruptors. Patients are evolving from care recipients to participants who play an active role in managing their own health.

There are now over 300,000 health apps available, nearly double the number of apps that were available in 2015 – and this has led to a lower barrier of entry to the market for startups and big tech. And companies have already started to reflect this landscape in their own product strategy.

Let’s take a look at the global digital diabetes management market.

There are a lot of startups in the space, including One Drop, Omada Health and Livongo. And they have connected blood glucose monitors and apps, with the ability to provide personal coaching and track activity, weight, and diet. They’ve also started to expand beyond diabetes to manage pre-diabetes hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity.

These are also touted as value-based solutions, which not only lead to cost savings, but also to reduced, related diabetes health risks, especially cardiovascular disease.

future of medical devices webinar

02 – Framework for Strategic Innovation: Health + Wellness

The competitive landscape has changed. Barriers to entry have weakened and consumers are getting more empowered. Business is not as usual. And industry shifts are not slowing down.

Bresslergroup synthesizes insights from industry reports, market data, and trendspotting platforms, and our internal Consumer Megatrend Framework. Looking at how consumer socio-cultural trends and industry shifts impact healthcare, we have developed what we call a “Framework for Strategic Innovation: Health + Wellness.”

We see five shifts currently taking place in healthcare that will continue to impact the industry. They are clustered under Driver, Attributes, and Enabler.

The Driver is the shift in the consumer’s perspective. It is influenced by the social, cultural, and demographic changes. The Driver necessitates change in other parts of the framework.

The Attributes are the strategies that address the Driver and leverage the Enabler. A company can use one, two, or all three Attributes as part of its innovation strategy.

Lastly, the Enabler represents the appropriate design and technological tools for the delivery of the Attributes.

A company needs to ensure its solution fits the Enabler in order to stay relevant.

With that, we’ll go into detail for each element of the framework.

Framework for Strategic Innovation: Health + Wellness

Shift #1: Health + Wellness

Let’s start with the first one: Health and Wellness. In the old paradigm, Focused on Illness, clinical healthcare tended to be episodic and reactionary. It was focused solely on biomedical issues, and the patient was a more passive recipient of healthcare and trusted the physician’s authority.

In the new paradigm of Health and Wellness, there’s a more proactive and preventive mindset, and this paradigm is focused on enhancing our well-being and health in all areas of life practically all of the time, whether we’re tracking our steps, calories, or minutes meditating.

In fact, mental well-being and feeling good were actually the two highest qualities consumers associated with being healthy in a recent consumer survey – more so than the absence of disease. And being a healthcare consumer means we have more choices in the services we desire and want more knowledge over those choices.

Examples of Health + Wellness

Here are some examples from sleep tech, a category that barely existed five years ago. The global sleep aid industry is now on track to hit over a hundred billion dollars by 2023. Good sleep is in fact the third highest attribute consumers correlate with being healthy. And we can see both medical and consumer companies entering this space.

One example is the URGOnight EEG band which is backed by URGO group, a leading international healthcare group based in France. This product won the CES 2019 Innovation Award in the wearables category. Based on neurofeedback, the device actually teaches you brain-controlled exercises that can help you produce brain waves that enhance natural sleep. And you have to wear it 20 minutes a day, three times a week – so not when you’re sleeping. This is a proactive approach to sleep enhancement. It’s not necessarily based on treating any specific condition.

Another is the Bose noise-masking sleep buds. This well-known consumer audio company use noise-masking to help one get uninterrupted sleep. And it’s no surprise that a company known for noise-cancelling head phones would want to enter this particular wellness category.

Potential Opportunities and Pitfalls in Health + Wellness

In each shift, we have identified opportunities and pitfalls. Here at Health + Wellness the opportunities are:

  • First, extend engagement to the entire wellness journey. How can the company’s strengths be used in wellness, prevention, and management – and not just diagnosis and treatment? Any weakness will need to be addressed, as well.
  • Second, make new connections with healthcare consumers along the entire wellness journey. As companies extend their engagement, they will need to meet healthcare consumers they’re not familiar with, in contexts companies may not have experienced before. It’s important to start building new connections with consumers, either directly or indirectly with partners.
  • Lastly, there are numerous opportunities to deliver new benefits to the consumer by partnering with unconventional stakeholders. Seek out partnerships in other industries. Think about fashion, entertainment, meal delivery, or even fitness centers. They want to partner with you as much as you want to partner with them.

In the pitfalls, we have:

  • Failure to provide solutions that work together. Consumers do not need more siloed solutions. As brands move toward wellness, they need to ensure their offerings work with existing and emerging healthcare solutions.
  • Another pitfall is the failure to shift from the disease-oriented to wellness-oriented product. The features and functions of a wellness device do not correspond to a medical product. Are you still designing wellness products with a medical mindset? Even for medical products, patients are increasingly expecting them to deliver consumer-level benefits.

Framework for Strategic Innovation: Health + Wellness

Shift #2: Empathic Care

Now we move on to the first attribute, Empathic Care. In the old paradigm of Dispassionate Care, there’s a quantitative approach to healing. It treats you as a number. It doesn’t necessarily take your life circumstances or preferences into account. This is probably not unlike your latest visit to an urgent care clinic.

In the new paradigm of Empathic Care, healing is about being able to live your life the way you want to, and being able to achieve meaningful and functional goals. It understands that your environmental context is an important part of that journey and that you, your physician, and your caregiver or family are all equal members of the team needed to make that healing happen.

Examples of Empathic Care

Here are two examples. The Cariloop Caregiver Support Platform is a mobile-friendly portal that helps families communicate and store important health, financial, and legal documents, while having on-demand access to dedicated healthcare coaches who guide families through the many decisions they make over the length of their caregiving journey. And so this is focusing on the care team. It’s looking beyond patient-centricity to recognize how illness affects families and networks.

And the GE Senographe Pristina Mammography System features a range of ergonomic features that are intentionally designed to enable patients to be more comfortable. And this is including an intentionally designed, calming room. On the tech side, rather than compress the breast automatically under the direction of a technologist, a patient can actually set compression to a level that feels right for them. So this is taking the patient’s emotional experience into account, to lessen their feelings of pain and anxiety and sharing power with the patient.

Potential Opportunities and Pitfalls in Empathic Care

In opportunities for Empathic Care we have:

  • First, design for a more dignified experience. Show empathy, for medical adherence is not the sole responsibility of the patient. Provide support and leeway during the healing journey.
  • Second, rethink the emotional experience in the era of smart data. Artificial intelligence, data analytics, and automation are here to stay. How do you build a new emotional experience for the patient? Remember to use technology to enable relationships, not to erase them.
  • Lastly, don’t forget to tap into the power of community. Fulfill the need for social connection by managing a space for peer communities to form. Your engagement with the consumer will extend beyond the product’s feature level.

For pitfalls:

  • Remember that empathy is not a marketing tool. Consumers are smarter than ever. They can identify brands which are authentic and those who only claim to be. It is extremely important to deliver on your promise. Failure to meet the expectation is the worst outcome.

Framework for Strategic Innovation: Health + Wellness


Shift #3: Data-Informed Personalization

Next we move to the second attribute, Data-Informed Personalization, the right care for the right person.

In the old paradigm of Generic Treatment, your treatment is simply not targeted to you. It is based on population averages, and what’s right for you needs to be found through trial and error. Therefore the dose that works for you may take some time to determine – if the medication is effective at all.

In Data-Informed Personalization, the treatment is targeted to you. It’s based on an aggregation of personal and big data, including genomics, preference and lifestyle data, and even social determinant factors. It can be iterative and is optimized to be given at the right time to be most effective.

Examples of Data-Informed Personalization

And here are two examples. Livongo is a diabetes management app and actually calls itself an “applied health signals company” and uses the equation they call “AIAI,” where they aggregate data for multiple sources. They interpret it in order to devise a care plan for you; they apply it; and then they iterate it based on how you react.

The second example is Baze, which does a blood test to see what your current nutrient levels are and develops personalized vitamins based on your own deficiencies and needs.

Potential Opportunities and Pitfalls in Data-Informed Personalization

So the opportunities here are:

  • First and foremost, make personalization about emotional connection and not just efficacy. In a truly personalized solution, efficacy is just the first step. You will need to engage the user beyond health data. Know their preference and emotional needs. Better still, engage them to take part in the process of personalization.
  • Second, companies can use data to build intelligence and influence across the ecosystem. For example, think about how much data you have now about your consumer? Traditionally, healthcare data is mostly owned by a select group of stakeholders in the ecosystem. They are the providers, the payers, or the distributors.

As data becomes more democratized, you will gain access to more data, both within and outside the healthcare domain. Companies can then extend their influence with this new set of data. Knowledge is power here.

Moving to the pitfalls:

  • First, failure to give consumers power to control their own data. Security and privacy are just the entry requirement. Today, consumers are more willing than ever to share their personal data. However, they also demand more transparency and control on what’s being done with their data and why.
  • In the second pitfall, we have failure to make meaning with data. Collecting data without making any meaning of it is not personalization. It’s just noise. Do not collect more than is necessary, and design personalization that truly fulfills peoples’ needs.

Framework for Strategic Innovation: Health + Wellness

Shift #4: Anytime Anywhere

Next we move on to Anytime, Anywhere. In the old paradigm of Appointment Only, care took place in a traditional location, like a doctor’s office or hospital. It may take weeks to get an appointment, but that’s the only option available to you.

In Anytime, Anywhere, rather than revolve around the doctor, the time and location of care revolves around the consumer, not unlike how Amazon has made purchasing anything an anytime, anywhere proposition. And we can see this in the spread of telehealth, minute clinics, and apps.

Examples of Anytime, Anywhere

One example is Ask Aysa, which is made by VisualDx, a healthcare informatics company that has the largest medical image library. And Aysa is a consumer-facing app. Through machine learning it can analyze a photo that you take of something that concerns you on your skin, and it provides personal guidance and information on how to take care of it.

Another example is Ping An Good Doctor, which is a healthcare platform in China. It has set up unstaffed one-minute clinics housed within phone booth-like structures. You don’t need to put it in a CVS, it can just be on the street. There an AI doctor sets up a diagnosis plan which is then sent to a real doctor via telemedicine. And patients can then get their prescriptions filled by the smart medicine cabinet, which stocks over 100 medications. There are now a thousand of these in place in China.

Potential Opportunities and Pitfalls in Anytime, Anywhere

Here are the opportunities in Anytime, Anywhere:

  • First, companies can prepare themselves for a healthcare system with no physical address. Consider that the role of the hospital will change as healthcare increasingly has no address. Challenge your assumption of when, where, and how quickly benefits can be delivered.
  • Second, cater to non-expert use. Design your solution so both the healthcare provider and consumer can use it conveniently.

Pitfalls include:

  • First, failure to provide a desirable level of clinical care. While convenience will bring the consumer to your product or service, delivering the right level of care with a high level of consistency will keep them there.
  • Also, the companies should consider the needs of the healthcare provider. As we move toward Anytime, Anywhere, the healthcare provider remains a critical stakeholder in building a relationship with the consumer. Don’t forget the needs of the provider in the new form of care delivery.

Framework for Strategic Innovation: Health + Wellness

Shift #5: Seamless Integration

Lastly we move on to the Enabler: Seamless Integration, with end-to-end multi-dimensional experiences.

In the old paradigm of Scattered Silos, focus is on a single product and its limited functions and features, but not necessarily considering the role it plays within the larger patient or provider journey.

The tools probably focus primarily on diagnosis or treatment and are disconnected from other solutions, tools, and platforms.

In the new paradigm of Seamless Integration, it takes into account the entire patient experience: the physical and digital, quantitative and qualitative data, and moves easily between prevention and management – similar to the blood glucose monitors and apps I talked about previously. And it’s also this consumer desire to have a single solution rather than toggle between multiple products and companies.

Examples of Seamless Integration

One example is Stryker Joint Coach and Recovery Coach, a digital patient-engagement and education platform that helps improve care delivery for patients undergoing a joint replacement surgery. And patients have access to the app up to 30 days before their procedure and 90 days afterwards. It helps with pre-op preparation, any clinical protocols, information about medications, as well as a variety of recovery and rehabilitation activities. And these are delivered at key, timed intervals as well as with a series of questions and surveys that help ensure patients are involved and engaged in their care plan.

Another example is CureFit, which is an India-based omni-channel startup operating within the wellness space. And it provides services across three verticals. It has brick-and-mortar fitness centers, a healthy meal delivery subscription, as well as an app-based mental wellness program.

Potential Opportunities and Pitfalls in Seamless Integration

The opportunities lie in trying to be a solution that includes all the wellness components:

  • Companies can establish an ecosystem or play a part within one. Think about, how is your product part of the broader service? Can you build an ecosystem that delivers an integrated solution? If not, how do you play a part within one?
  • In addition, there are opportunities in providing a seamless transition between health and wellness. As healthcare decentralizes, ensuring consistency between different points of engagement becomes more important. The seamless transfer of data, user experience, and relationship will be critical.
    Pitfalls include:
  • Failure to establish the ecosystem around the healthcare consumer. Are you building your ecosystem based on what you are most familiar with, or based on what consumers really want?
  • The second pitfall is the failure to consider the influence of the tech giants. We are talking about Apple, Amazon, IBM, Google, or even Facebook. They’re making waves in the healthcare industry. These tech companies have an advantage in that they are already part of the consumer lifestyle. Think about how you can connect with their network.

future of medical devices webinar

03 – The Framework in Action

Let’s look at the framework in action.

Consider how you measure up against this framework. How does it apply to your own products? Have you been taking into account this consumer driver as you’re planning for future innovation? Are you making use of these attributes and plugging into the digital-physical integration tools that are either in use now or emerging in the marketplace?

We can see how well this is going for the digital diabetes management industry, which is growing quite fast. We think it’s because they’ve encapsulated all five of these shifts.

In Health + Wellness, these devices seamlessly move between prevention, treatment, and management, helping the patient lower their glucose levels through biometric tracking. In addition it helps reduce the risk of diabetes becoming a gateway disease to other health risks.

In Empathic Care, these devices come with personal coaching, realizing that changing behavior is hard and often needs a personal coach to help you get through it.

For Data-Informed Personalization, the devices prompt action based on real-time aggregated data. One product predicts what your blood glucose will be in eight hours and suggests actions you can take to counteract a possible blood glucose spike or drop.

In Anytime, Anywhere, all of these devices have mobile and a watch app and 24/7 response specialists in coaching.

Lastly, in Seamless Integration, these all have integrated services and delivery across physical and digital platforms. They’re Internet-of-Medical-Things solutions. There’s a complete system through the Bluetooth glucose meter, monthly delivery of test strips, and the tracking, coaching and reports that these devices can generate that you can send to your own physician.

the design and innovation strategy advantage

The Design & Innovation Strategy Advantage

Disruption in the healthcare industry will only become more common. As you think about your own product portfolio and innovation strategy, think about where you fit in the disruption paradigm.

What’s your approach to these inevitable shifts?

Are you sticking to what you’re most familiar with, and hoping to respond fast enough when your customer, the hospital, or patients tell you that they need something else?

Or are you anticipating the shift and developing a robust plan to capture new opportunities?

Or perhaps you’re leading the shift and redefining the market before others.

We want to help companies understand these shifts and develop the right strategies for their own specific strengths and contexts. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us to get deeper insights and to ask how the tools we’ve talked about might fit into your innovation process.

Download our free whitepaper, How To Design Health Products of the Future.