From devices to solutions – an opportunity for in vitro diagnostics companies

Patrick Schorderet Senior Manager, PwC Switzerland 25 Jun 2019

Manufacturers of medical diagnostic devices are at the epicentre of the data boom. In vitro diagnostics companies have a significant competitive edge in providing value in healthcare with digital capabilities including analytics, decision support and medical decisions itself. Various challenges have hindered in vitro diagnostic companies from fully embracing this opportunity. For those willing to take the risk, we discuss four prerequisites for successful transformation. #Medtech #InVitroDiagnostics #DisruptingHealthcare

In vitro diagnostics companies have driven the development of cutting-edge physical products, resulting in faster and more accurate diagnostics. As such, these products generate a plethora of “real world” data, which is a solid foundation on which to develop digital capabilities – in this context defined as non-physical offerings around data, including analytics (managing the data volume to make it human readable), decision-support tools (behaviour and treatment recommendations) and smart devices (automated and autonomous devices). Surprisingly few companies have fully grasped this opportunity, mainly on account of high development costs, an uncertain regulatory landscape and the liability associated with providing medical support and automated solutions. With increased pressure from more nimble players, established companies would be advised to leverage their unique market position to power up digital solutions and go “beyond the device”.

Products are good – solutions are better

In the digital era, data is the new currency. Currency is only as good as the system in which it operates. In other words, generating and accessing data is one thing – creating value with it is another. In this context, diabetes is the poster child of the new digital era. While diagnostic devices and treatment solutions have become smaller, faster, leaner, and more accurate in the past 50 years, patients are craving data management and insight generation solutions – and the demand is real. In light of the strict regulatory environment and complexities around the provision of medical advice, developing digital tools is no walk in the park, however, even for established companies. Here are four considerations of successfully unlocking the power of data.

Continuously prioritise the biggest unmet need

In today’s connected world, the realm of possibilities is enormous. While this has fueled innovation like never before, it is a double-edged sword. The danger is to focus on solving something that isn’t a problem. In other words, it is important for companies to realise when good enough is, well, good enough. For example, while providing patients with ever more accurate readings is great, they might just have completely different urgent needs. Patients and healthcare professionals have a more fundamental need, namely to efficiently manage the data they already have, even if it is less accurate. The ability to see this is an art – and it will avoid boiling water in a burning house.

Defining the added benefit for society

While an inaccurate algorithm to support your shopping experience may have a dramatic outcome on your wardrobe, the same on a medical decision-support tool takes it to a whole different level. This, of course, seems like a banal platitude, but one that can have a life or death importance – literally. The development of value-adding digital solutions therefore requires deep knowledge of pathology, coupled with a good understanding of the regulatory requirements in order to keep the patient safe. Unsurprisingly, developing complex, medical-grade solutions is more costly than developing a casual puzzle focused on multi-coloured birds trying to save their eggs from green-coloured pigs. Defining how the digital solution will create value for the provider and consumer, as well as how the value can be commercialised sustainably over time, is therefore paramount to its success.

Develop solutions that do not require data ownership

Recently, companies across industries have been spending a lot of time, effort – and money – in acquiring data. While data ownership seems like a gold mine today, the future may look very different. By way of example, over 90% of available data has been produced in the last two years alone, and people are getting more and more cautious about sharing it. As a result, companies should develop solutions and algorithms that do not require data ownership. Smart home devices are a prime example, with the customer buying a physical product bundled with a smart digital component. Ultimately, patients value a solution that is tailored to their needs – and is what they expect.

Stay hungry, stay humble – defining an effective branding 

It is no secret that society and healthcare companies have a love-hate relationship, with the pharma/medtech industry ranking poorly when it comes to reputation, shoulder to shoulder with tobacco, banking, and oil and gas. In this context, the digital era provides an opportunity for redemption. Clearly defining the purpose of data collection, for example, and the means by which it will help deliver added value will build a more trustful relationship with customers and patients. Through increased transparency and trust through rapid iteration and adaption, branding will become a strength, and less of a dilemma than it is now.

For in vitro diagnostics companies, moving up the value chain towards higher value work is an appealing financial strategy. Yet, few dare to make the leap, mainly due to the high risks involved – so high that many fail to see the upside. Patient safety is a quintessential responsibility, no questions asked. On the other hand, medical progress over the past 150 years was achieved by constantly pushing the boundaries of our comfort zones to provide patients with the best care possible. At the end of the day, we can be optimistic that some digital opportunities may be much closer to shore than we think. What is your take on #digitalmedtech?

  • In vitro diagnostics companies have a competitive edge when it comes to providing solutions
  • Successful solutions require innovative approaches to data management and value creation
  • While the risks may seem very high, the upside is enormous, especially for patients
This article was co-authored by Stephan Siegel, Head Finance Global Support Functions, Roche Diabetes Care.


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Patrick Schorderet

Patrick Schorderet

Senior Manager, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 5245