"Digitization" has been disrupting several parts of the economy, including the medical devices industry. Beyond the initial hype, we see several programs beginning to show real results and that look promising for improving quality and decreasing healthcare costs. The industry is beginning to look at digital health solutions to drive differentiation as it moves toward focusing on healthcare value and outcomes.


Clearly, data and analytics will play a turnkey role in enabling digital health solutions over the next few years, as also indicated by my colleague, Pete Masloski, in his conversation with Rock Health. Data and analytics have opened up a broad range of opportunities, not only for the digitally native companies that sell “smart” medical devices but also for many others that can now leverage a broad array of newer apps, data and platforms on the market. As such, the role of the analytics leader becomes very important in understanding the opportunities and investing in the right areas. 


Evidence generation is one important area where medtech companies have significant opportunities to generate long-lasting value for the organization. Companies are using device data combined with other real-world data sources to generate evidence on clinical and economic outcomes, and in turn to develop better products and enhance products’ value proposition for patients and providers. For example, one medtech company that sells connected devices is looking to validate a hypothesis about its device generating a positive impact on certain comorbid conditions. To do so, it’s integrating device-generated data and claims data and investigating the impact of device usage on various biomarkers. Once the story is developed, it will be able to proceed with label expansion and a differentiated value proposition, and thus drive product growth.


Along similar lines, in 2017 Medtronic leveraged the data generated from its MiniMed 670G device—a closed-loop insulin pump system—to demonstrate improvement in the percentage of time that patients were within the optimal glycemic levels. The system includes an algorithm that can adapt to fluctuating glucose levels and automatically self-adjust the insulin delivery. Medtronic looked at real-world clinical outcomes for 32,000 patients, including the data that patients voluntarily uploaded, to conclude that the usage of its device and the associated technology improves glucose levels and quality of life.


While the approach to use real-world data is not totally new, the availability of digital data, especially data generated from devices, significantly enhances by surfacing more granular patient data. Over a period, the regulators have become more patient-centric in the evaluation of treatments. For instance, the FDA has created a digital health unit within the Center for Devices and Radiological Health. The unit has expressed excitement over recognizing the power of digital health to gather the patient perspective.


Commercial execution is another important area driving significant opportunities. Data gathered from devices and other real-world data sources are enabling the generation of accurate and real-time insights around patient and HCP behaviors, and therefore more effective marketing and sales execution. The high-resolution patient behavior data captured—such as diagnostic readings, device or drug usage—and physical activity allow the generation of predictive insights about adoption of products, product adherence, patients ready to switch or drop off, and worsening or improving disease conditions. 


A large medtech company within diabetes is studying factors such as device usage, app usage, patient demographics, adverse events and product returns to predict adherence and develop promotional messages and local targeting strategies. In a highly crowded market, the company is expected to generate 1 to 3% in incremental revenue.  


Even in cases where the device is not as “smart” and not generating streaming data, we’re seeing companies leveraging data from apps, websites, EHRs and third-party data sources to create commercial value. Medtech companies are leveraging such analytics to develop insights and KPIs that provide ongoing evidence to payers in a value-based care program and to differentiate itself from the competition.


While several companies are experimenting with some of these ideas, the investment is mostly scattershot and siloed, and not purposeful enough to tap into the opportunities presented, primarily because the digital and connected health analytics area is still new and evolving, and the value isn’t very well-known. On the other hand, a handful of organizations have made strides in successfully deploying digital health analytics solutions.