I love the start of a new year for two reasons. Firstly, it always feels like a clean slate, in some way or another (given the obstacles of 2020, I am sure we can all appreciate a fresh start, even if it's just a mental one). Secondly, the beginning of the year is a great time to do a brief recap of the previous year and set goals and expectations for the year that is underway.
At the risk of being too candid, and possibly boring you, I will fortunately not share my personal achievements and failures of 2020 and goals for 2021. Instead, this blog post will help us look back at the medical technology and healthcare industries in 2020 in terms of the winners and losers. We will also briefly look at the top trends that we expect for 2021.
Winners and Losers
To give you more context, "winners" refer to companies, technologies, platforms, or entities that are involved with one or more activity in the medical technology or healthcare industry and experienced positive growth during 2020. On the other hand, losers are those that experienced negative growth or loss. The truth is that I could write a whole book on the winners and losers but I decided to keep it to a maximum of 5 for each group, just to get the conversation going. My winners are the following:
Big Medtech: despite a challenging year for the global economy, big MedTech companies experienced positive year-on-year growth (YoY) in 2020. Such companies include the likes of Beckton Dickinson and Company (8% YoY) and Siemens Healthineers (14% YoY) ;
Big Pharma: while the focus of this post is Medtech, it just didn't feel right to not mention big pharma. With COVID-19 vaccine production and roll-out rapidly increasing, big pharma has become a common topic of discussion in the past few months and will be for the months to come;
PPE manufacturers and distributors: although this is an obvious (and sometimes controversial) winner, PPE manufacturers and providers were at the forefront of delivering the COVID-19 essentials. The pandemic alone has created a massive opportunity for the PPE market, with an estimated value of $178.3 billion by 2029 and an estimated CAGR of 11%. While China is the largest PPE manufacturer, a lot of South African organizations have taken on the role of wholesaler/distributor ;
e-commerce platforms: this one might come as a surprise, but the restrictions on movement showed us that e-commerce is the way to go. While this is not too common for medical devices, I've included it as a winner by way of predicting its importance in the future of medical device procurement and delivery;
UV-C robots: ultraviolet-C disinfection robots played a key part in keeping hospitals and other large spaces disinfected during the early stages of the pandemic this device. Although not technically a medical device, the UV-C was one of my favourites of 2020. Check out the NYT article on UVC .
My losers are the following:
Medtech SME's and startups: without generalizing too much, I think it's fair to say that one of the most affected group was the SME/startup group, regardless of geographic location;
Non-PPE medical device wholesalers/distributors/importers: this group is quite common in South Africa, where the Medtech industry relies heavily on imports from overseas and distribution. Due to the multiple restrictions and complicated travel adjustments, this group was negatively affected;
Manufacturers of surgical equipment and prosthetics: 2020 saw a drop in hospital admissions for non-COVID related causes such as elective surgeries and procedures ;
European Notified Bodies (NBs): with the European Medical Device Regulation(MDR) coming into action in May 2021 (less than 6 months away), only 18 NBs were accredited under the MDR. I've included the NBs in this category since only one-third of them are MDR-ready. Unless we see more NBs be accredited very soon, or the MDR's date of application is pushed back by another year, certifying under the MDR will be quite a nightmare. Check out this blog post for more information on the MDR's coming into action.
Top Trends for 2021
At this stage of the year, I am certain that you may have come across some reports of varying length and varying sources regarding the trends and predictions for 2021. In this section, I will present what I found to be the most common trends. Once again, the idea is not to find the perfect top 5 list but to get the conversation going
Simply put, telemedicine is the practice of clinicians or healthcare professionals seeing patients virtually via a dedicated interface or platform . The application of telemedicine brings the need for patient self-monitoring solutions, as discussed in the next section. Some popular telemedicine mobile apps include HeyDoctor and Lyra Healthcare.
Self-monitoring solutions put your health in your own hands, literally. These solutions generally include mobile apps and wearable technology such as smartwatches. Self-monitoring solutions are often used in conjunction with telemedicine. Examples of self-monitoring solutions include the Move ECG and the very famous FitBit.
AI has already proven to be a game-changer in Medtech. With applications such as early prevention and accurate screening and diagnosis, AI has great potential to synergize various technologies and create a wealth of possibilities for healthcare .
Figure 1: AI's socio-economic impact 
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
Virtual reality's popularity in healthcare is primarily attributed to rehabilitation in various applications such as helping stroke victims recover from motor deficiencies, and to help patients that suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), among others. Augmented reality, on the other hand, can be used for applications such as robotic surgeries and medical education.
IoMT (Internet of medical things)
IoMT results from combining IoT with telemedicine/telehealth. The approach used in IoMT is to continuously monitor and measure the patient without the healthcare practitioner's presence.
Privacy and security
As we shift into a more digitized world, data privacy and security have been under scrutiny. More specifically, privacy and security related to patient information and records need to be of the highest standard. There is even some talk about the use of blockchain in combination with electronic health records (EHR). This will definitely be something to keep an eye on in 2021.
Smart quality management and documentation systems
As I mentioned previously, the MDR will be coming into action in May 2021. This will emphasize the need for traceability and electronic registration of economic operator data. In addition to this, we can expect that an increasing number of technical documentation reviews will be done remotely (this means that Medtech manufacturers will have to submit their technical files online). While Excel spreadsheets and Google Sheets may be effective for now (assuming that human error is eliminated), the sustainable move is to implement smart electronic systems for maintaining quality management systems (QMS) and technical documentation. Find out how Infomed Consulting can assist you with your QMS and technical documentation by getting in touch with us.
The best way to determine how well this year will go in the MedTech industry is to be proactive and have these conversations and make these trend predictions. The aim is not to be right or wrong but rather to help us think of better solutions. Personally, I am excited to see how far we get by the end of 2021.
Thank you for reading! Please leave your comments, like, and share this blog if you enjoyed it or found it insightful. Until next week.