COVID-19 is reshaping healthcare delivery – the numerous challenges that the pandemic has created have opened the door for less traditional technologies. Medical software and remote technologies (including AI) that are being employed now to mitigate these challenges will hold lasting value post-pandemic.
Steve Brooks, TTi Senior Advisor in Regulatory and Clinical Sciences, has answers to some of your questions on the impact of COVID-19 on delivery of healthcare and its downstream effects on reimbursement of technologies, and provides suggestions for continued success in a post-pandemic marketplace.
What do you think will be the biggest change in your area of specialization post-COVID?
I have been working with companies with medical software and remote sensors, including AI, to assist commercialization, regulatory and evidence development. Prior to the pandemic, hospitals, medical practices and individual physicians did not have the personnel or resources to take advantage of these technologies. No Medicare or insurance reimbursement existed(outside of very limited criteria), and despite a business plan or demonstrated ROI on the product, there was no logistical way for the technologies to be integrated into the provider’s current workflow. There was also a non-familiarity with this manner of care delivery which hindered even many early technology adopters.
With the shut down of in-person medical care, the entire spectrum of healthcare delivery has been forced into remote telemedicine delivery of care. This includes hospitals, clinics and physician offices. Patients are reporting very high patient-satisfaction for the care received via telemedicine, and physicians have now seen firsthand the value and utility. Most importantly, payers have seen the value. During the period of the declared health emergency, CMS has mandated that these visits be covered at 100% percent of the rate for in-person visits.
After the pandemic, the logistics will now be in place and providers and patients alike will want to continue to deliver and receive care in this manner. Providers will see the value, and reimbursement will necessarily follow. It will not be 100% of an in-person visit as during the emergency, but even at 20%, 40% or some other ratio, there will be a demand and a business plan. Most importantly, the logistics are now in place, as is the workflow, and now providers should be more receptive. Companies with technology to perform in this environment, or facilitate remote care with inexpensive connected sensors that can be used remotely, in patient homes, and can connect to the “medical internet of things,” will finally find a demand for their technology.
What should companies be doing right now to position themselves for a post-pandemic marketplace?
Funding will be scarce. After the 2008 recession, medtech funding took 1-2 years to return to pre-recession levels. Certain segments recovered earlier. mHealth has been experiencing increased levels of funding, and given the forced shift, this will remain strong and increase. If there is a remote monitoring or remote delivery of care story for a company’s goods or services, this is where efforts should be placed, as sales and funding will experience an early boost.
What is the smartest and/or most interesting thing you have seen a company do to survive, innovate, or evolve during the crisis?
Things are very much in evolution. There is grant funding and capital available for technology or services related to the new delivery of care – shifting to these areas in demand has been effective. An early stage company on the verge of developing a working prototype for an advanced portable ultrasound with capabilities beyond current ultrasound technology, with the ability to see through air, therefore capable of imaging the lungs (a critical target of COVID-19 infection and source of considerable morbidity), was able to apply for multiple technology grants specifically for COVID-19 development. The timing is suited to the current development timeline and with the funding and completion of the grant milestones, this will be a lead in to government contracts for the developed devices.