As we progress through 2022, medical device businesses will face mounting pressure as the IVDR compliance deadline in May draws near. We have already seen the profound impact digital technology can have on compliance efforts, which are set to remain high up the business agenda as further regulations arrive in the coming years. The need for digital assistance is clearly not going away anytime soon and will continue to grow as new compliance challenges arise. It’s never too late to take the leap into this new digital age.
There are three major digital innovations I believe will be at the fore of the medical device market’s digital revolution in the year ahead. Artificial Intelligence (AI), 3-D rendering, and cloud systems have already been making waves in other industries—but these are now well-positioned to solve the key challenges faced by the medical device industry today, and in time will become mainstay solutions.
1. AI Will Elevate Previously Manual Capabilities to New Levels
The medical device industry has traditionally relied on manual processes, from high-level decision making to routine tasks. However, with the recent rise in staff and other operational costs, it has become too costly for businesses to continue in this way. Here, AI has come into its own. Known as the art of equipping a machine to undertake tasks or make decisions in a way that mirrors human intelligence and behavior, AI has moved away from being a ‘concept’ and turned into a reality, already having considerable impact on business operations. Take the dermatology space for example, where AI has been involved with patient treatment and diagnosis due to its ability to read body scans, leading to cancerous cells being discovered both early on and more accurately.
AI had previously been used mainly in simple operations, but as it is increasingly used in more significant procedures, regulations surrounding the technology have moved front-and-center for governing bodies. The first major factor is protecting patient safety. AI, when combined with human intelligence can significantly reduce errors when compared to human labor alone. Humans are naturally prone to making mistakes, but in a highly regulated industry such as medical devices, mitigating as much risk as possible is crucial. AI is arguably most effective when combined with human expertise, as in the case of medical device management where it can lead to major benefits around enhanced error handling and performance management.
With predictive capabilities, AI can read and identify text, language, symbols and other assets that are associated with medical device labels. It can then populate this data onto a spreadsheet—autonomously speeding up labor-intensive tasks that would take much longer by humans. For example, where it would normally take 300 million hours of labor to change one million labels, with the help of AI, one company was able to change 90,000 labels in just six months with a team of only six people. From agility gains to productivity increases, AI has enormous potential.
2. 3-D Rendering: Hyper-Realistic Prototypes to Perfect Product Design Processes
Although 3-D rendering is not a novel technology—today used in the retail industry to preview products on store shelves—it is, however, expanding into new roles in the medical device industry and can be instrumental in the product design process. 3-D rendering is a software solution designed to take user-created 3-D models and place them into fully realized 3-D environments or images. In the label and artwork space, 3-D rendering can generate labels to put on a product and produce a 360-degree view of what it will look like on the bottle, product or even shelf before it goes to market. This can prevent costly re-editing later on in the product development process.
High demand for 3-D rendering within industry marketing teams stems from its time-saving benefits. The process frees up more time for downstream editing for different types of print press versus bringing in more resources to do the job on their own. However, similar to AI, 3-D rendering is most effective when used in conjunction with human labor. For example, the artist will need to choose the best color for the materials, as well as define the correct lighting features to make the most realistic rendering.
3. Cloud-based Software Allows for Keeping Pace with Continual Change
Cloud-based technology is another digital trend that is by no means new for other industries but has the potential to be ground-breaking for certain areas of the medical device market. Cloud-based software can be highly beneficial for operational efficiency and the ability to swiftly react to rapid change—a highly common occurrence in the medical device industry. With enhanced reliability and the ability to increase or drop capacity based on demand, using cloud services provides the foundation to dramatically scale as a business, as well as better serve customers.
2020 marked a significant shift for mass business adoption of cloud-based platforms and this is likely to continue well into 2022. For example, it is estimated that the global public cloud computing market will be worth more than $800 billion by 2025, with more than 70% of companies already using cloud services set to increase their budgets in the coming years, according to TechJury.
Cloud solutions also offer automatic upgrades and reliability testing. With less time spent on manual upgrades, team members can focus on future technologies and prospects that will be critical for business operations in the years to come.
2022 Is the Year for True Digital Transformation
Although the ordeals of 2021 are behind us, there are more hurdles to come in 2022. With the IVDR deadline looming in May and other regulations in the pipeline, medical device organizations won’t get a moment’s rest amid lengthy compliance projects. However, the difference between 2021 and 2022 is that there are new technologies available to help overcome these challenges.
AI, 3-D rendering and cloud-based technology are digital solutions to the medical device industry’s most pressing issues and can be implemented today—indeed, it is expected many medical device organizations will take up such digital solutions this year. These technologies will not replace workers by any measure. They will instead operate in conjunction with the workforce to eliminate errors and inefficiencies, and free up worker capacity for more high-level, business-critical operations that will help propel the industry further into the future.