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Medical devices and the power of the cloud

By Fred Walker, Atlantic Technologies



Medical devices and the power of the cloud

Fred Walker from Atlantic Technologies talks about how cloud technology can address some of the challenges facing medical device manufacturers as they build closer relationships with patients.

There have been some big changes in how medical device companies operate and more generally how healthcare is provided to and consumed by patients.

In many cases it means they now have a more direct relationship with the patients that benefit from their products, as well as with the medical professionals and clinics that may recommend their products to benefit that patient.

The challenge is that medical device manufacturers are becoming end-to-end service providers.

Therefore, managing those relationships, the devices and after sales service and maintenance has become more important than ever before, and is more directly coordinated by the device manufacturers.

Technology and customer relationship management (CRM) systems have had a role to play for a long time, but it is the ubiquity of cloud-based technology that offers a new way for device manufacturers to address some of their biggest challenges.

Such challenges can include closer connections to customers, proactive maintenance, and automated fault detection, along with training and support for field service engineers and community healthcare professionals.

In the past, companies have relied on point solutions to build out IT systems, with all the complexities that are needed to keep them working reliably, be compliant with regulations, and ensure that they can connect to other systems.

This worked well enough when systems only needed to serve the medical device manufacturer themselves and perhaps share data with a limited number of partners.  But the needs of the technology have changed.

The expectations of patients have changed greatly, particularly in recent years, where the pandemic drove a huge shift in digital adoption, especially in older age groups – those likely to be relying more on medical devices and services in the home.

It means that using online services, “the cloud” and even video conferencing have become much more acceptable, even demanded, by patients, as it gives them access to instant information and support, when it is convenient for them.

Medical devices have evolved too, acting much more like Internet of Things devices.

They are able to share information with manufacturers about their use or status, or send medical practitioners’ data that can help assess a patient’s condition over time, as well as directly to patients through digital channels such as mobile apps and websites.

The cloud is the glue

Medical device manufacturers are now in a world where they need to connect doctors, patients, field service engineers, service teams and head office functions such as sales and marketing.

Data streams and analytics must be able to flow to and from each of these groups in real-time, and the same is true of each individual device in circulation. Yet it is impossible to prescribe how they will be connected (3G, 4G or Wifi for example) and on what type of device.

Cloud technology excels in this environment, acting as a central secure and resilient platform that uses the public internet to connect all user groups and bring data together into a single repository.

This allows the whole community to act at speed and with the benefits of the insight provided in the data, whether that be to proactively plan field maintenance, provide online video training resources to a community nursing team, or empower patients to take a more active role in their own care.

At Atlantic Technologies, we have also seen a number of clients use the cloud technology to also greatly enhance their sales teams, giving them a 360 degree view of their sales teams, automating tasks, and improving the accuracy of internal reporting.

For the first time, some have even been able to implement self-service eCommerce platforms that have greatly streamlined the sales process for staff and patients alike.

As cloud services are hosted in data centres that comply with the highest levels of security and IT expertise, it means the resources a medical device manufacturer benefits from far outstrip the level of investment any one vendor could justify as economical.

For the cloud platform provider, such as those available with companies like Salesforce, they can centrally control the roll out of features, as well as ensure data and privacy compliance is adhered to around the world, where different healthcare and data regulations might apply.

This alone lifts a huge burden from the medical device manufacturers, their IT, product and compliance teams.

Better outcomes for all

Medical device manufacturers are operating in an increasingly competitive market, especially with the increased consumerisation of devices.

Cloud technology can not only lead to improved patient outcomes, but lower costs for the manufacturers themselves.

We’ve already talked about how the capital costs of running applications and IT systems can be lowered, but operationally there is a lot that cloud systems can tell teams such as marketing, support and sales.

With functional areas operating in a single cloud platform, it becomes much easier to streamline processes, including after sales services, such as preventative maintenance.

For example, devices can not only report themselves to a service department when their performance is dropping, or supplies should be ordered by the patient, but that same data can be used to inform marketing decisions, and create preventive maintenance programmes that minimise the need for devices to be replaced or cause downtime problems and anxiety for patients.

Indeed, such data can also be used by product development teams, to further enhance software or hardware of the devices themselves.

Get to cloud nine

We are in the midst of a global healthcare revolution and internet connected medical devices are evolving at an astounding rate.

With patients more technology savvy and demanding than ever before, and the need for healthcare services and medical device manufacturers to be more efficient, the cloud is showing, as it has with many other industries, that it has a role to play.

Patients and healthcare workers want the same digital experiences they have in all other aspects of their lives – device manufacturers need to step up to that challenge and the cloud offers them the best way to get there.


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