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The new tech boom – a shot in the arm for healthcare

This blog post explores the burgeoning interest in healthcare from the technology sector and what it means for clinical researchers.

This is  a huge and evolving topic, impossible to cover fully in a single blog post. But we hope this piece will provide an interesting primer on some of the background to this new tech boom, the potential it holds for the healthcare and research industries, as well as highlighting some of the key partnerships that have already been established.

For some further reading beyond this blog post, we recommend checking out the following articles:

Why Tech Giants Like Google and Apple Are Moving into the Healthcare Space

Why So Many New Tech Companies Are Getting into Health Care

Tech Firms Take Bigger Steps Into Healthcare

The healthcare industry is a booming area for tech companies – from smaller firms focusing on technology solutions that answer specific healthcare challenges, to huge corporations like Apple, Google and Nokia, who are adding healthcare arms to their already wide-ranging capabilities.

Traditionally, the industry has been seen as too challenging – with regulatory barriers and a slow pace of development putting off companies that are used to moving at a faster pace. In 2014, the Harvard Business Review said ‘…the health care sector was long considered an impenetrable, or at least an unattractive, target for IT innovation — the entrepreneurial equivalent of Siberia.’

Now, consumer healthcare technology is a huge global business and many companies are hoping to secure FDA approvals that would allow their devices to be used in treatment and research settings. In this new era of technological innovation, healthcare is estimated as being a $3 trillion industry in the US alone, so it’s no surprise that tech firms of all sizes are keen to get involved.

Tech companies – inventive, ambitious and unafraid of risk

Tech giants like Google, Apple and IBM are inventive, ambitious and unafraid of taking on some risk. This means they have a lot to offer the healthcare industry. When they see potential, they have the capital and the drive to invest in developing new technology and products.

Some of the key successes so far have involved partnerships between specialist healthcare companies and large tech companies. For example, in 2015 IBM Watson partnered with patient insights app hc1.com to support the growth of the tool, and it’s now being trialed by hospitals in the US. Earlier this year, Google partnered with Dexcom to develop a newly miniaturised glucose monitor for release in 2018, and partnered with Sanofi on a plan to spend $500 million developing devices and services to support diabetes care.

Smaller, newer companies are also successfully raising big investments to develop their ideas. For example, Science 37 just raised $6.5 million to develop mobile technology that lets people take part in clinical trials remotely – helping to reduce the geographical barriers to clinical trial participation.

Healthcare, tech and entrepreneurial expertise combined

The bigger tech companies have sometimes been criticised for thinking too big, and investing in ‘blue sky’ ideas that don’t reflect the reality of the healthcare industry.

However, although companies like Google and Apple don’t have the same history in healthcare as the companies they’re partnering with, the combination of expertise across healthcare, tech and entrepreneurship is arguably a huge asset for the healthcare industry. Where traditional pharmaceutical companies and CROs move at a slower pace, dedicated tech companies juxtapose this carefully paced progress with a focus on bigger, more ambitious ideas. The likes of Google, Apple and IBM offer a shot in the arm that can move projects like device development forward quicker than ever before.

What does this mean for clinical trials professionals?

To help clinical development move forward and meet patient needs, it is important that researchers embrace new technology like CGM and Science 37’s mobile app, and optimise their clinical trials whenever it is appropriate to do so.

There is still a gap that needs closing between technology companies, and the researchers and clinicians working with patients on the ground. One area to focus on is building closer relationships between these ambitious tech innovators and clinical trials professionals that are invested in bringing new and better treatments to their patients.

MESM specialises in helping clinical trials professionals identify the best equipment and devices to make their studies a success, and we help manage the complexities of equipment supply and logistics so you can focus on delivering ground breaking new treatments. We are always keen to talk about how we can work together to take advantage of exciting technological developments to run better clinical trials.