Three reasons why medtech needs to embrace digital

Views & Analysis

Digital transformation is now well underway in the life sciences – enabling better stakeholder understanding, greater efficiency and more customer-responsive communications. And the pace of change continues, with the industry introducing new kinds of digital services for healthcare professionals, payers and patients. In the life sciences generally, digital is big news.

Medtech, though, has yet to fully embrace digital innovation.1 Many claim that it needs to follow in the footsteps of other healthcare sectors and more rapidly adopt digital technologies. But why should it? And what might drive this transformation?

1. New regulations require new kinds of customer engagement

A more challenging medtech environment is opening eyes to the possibilities that digital provides. In Europe, for example, recent EU legislation on medtech product safety and clinical evaluation is shifting payers and providers towards more risk-averse behaviours. That should call for better stakeholder engagement but this is challenging because access is diminishing, with face-to-face interactions and call times both declining.

But, with the right digital tools, what seems like a complex communication challenge for medtech could actually enable more engaging interactions.

Digital communication tools can facilitate highly targeted and personalised communication that makes each engagement more effective through improved relevance. Digital also delivers a more complete experience. Face-to-face communications like e-detailing, can be combined with remote presentations and on-demand channels like apps and personalised microsites. This ‘multichannel’ approach further increases relevance as stakeholders engage in whatever way suits them best.

“As market conditions change, medtech companies are looking with fresh eyes on the opportunities that technology provides – particularly how it can better engage stakeholders in the benefits of the latest medical innovations.”
Lars U. Diemer, CEO, Agnitio

2. More complex networks of stakeholders

It’s no longer just payers and providers that medtech has to reach. The customer environment is becoming ever-more diverse. The industry now needs to communicate with specialists and nurses, hospitals, and government agencies, as well as non-clinical stakeholders like finance, procurement and IT.

With so many stakeholders, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is almost impossible. Effective communication requires customer understanding. You have to say the right things, in the right way, to the right person, at the right time. The complexity that comes from multiple stakeholders obviously makes this challenging when working in a traditional way. But it is much simpler with digital technology.

The ability to gather data from stakeholders as they interact with digital tools, continuously gives insights into what people want. Then digital provides the flexibility to respond in a highly-segmented way – even at an individual level. The result? More meaningful and engaging communications with customers and a consequent understanding of medtech brands that reflect the values of their audience.

“Above all, customers want their care to include solutions aligned to value-based principles, and that means going beyond product features and benefits to understand customer needs and deliver a solution that addresses them.”
Bryn Davies, General Manager Europe, Syncera (Smith & Nephew)

3. The drive for value in healthcare systems

Healthcare is changing with an ever-increasing focus on value and not just a product’s specific efficacy, quality and safety. This shift can potentially lead to products being seen as commodities, increasing pressure on pricing and influencing a change in buying processes.

This trend, coupled with a growing payer emphasis on actual treatment outcomes, is driving a more holistic approach by life science companies. A product is now seen as part of an overall treatment solution. Rather than focusing solely on the product itself, greater attention is being paid to how it is being used in clinical settings. And companies understand that increased value can be provided by building services around products that then become part of the overall offer.

Again, technology provides a way for medtech companies to act. In areas like healthcare professional support and patient education, digital services can provide unique value and significantly impact treatment outcomes. Some life science companies are already leading the way. Firms such as Roche, Bayer and Philips have all adopted digital to support their product sales strategies, achieving great success.

“Thanks to its innovations, therapeutic and business expertise, and deep relationships with providers, medtech – more than any other industry, even pharmaceuticals – can help improve both elements [better outcomes and lower costs] of the value equation."
The Boston Consulting Group1

The future for medtech is digital

Given the impact that digital technology is having on the world at large, there’s little doubt that it will change medtech too. In many ways, it already has. Some companies have used digital to engage more deeply with patients, for example, by building communications technologies into devices. Their work is widely admired across the whole life science industry.

The opportunities for medtech today are to take a broader view and look to apply it in areas such as customer communication and value-adding digital services. Factors including new regulations, more complex stakeholder constellations, and the emphasis on value and outcomes, will inevitably nudge the sector in this direction. Those companies that take on this mantle, by embracing digital, will be most likely to gain a significant advantage and shape the future of medtech.


  1. Goetz Gerecke et al. (2017). Moving beyond the milkman model in medtech. Boston Consulting Group.



This article is based on discussion from the recent webinar pharmaphorum hosted in partnership with Agnitio, "How to maximise the value of digital in medtech: preparing for digital transformation".

To watch the webinar in full, click here.