Appirio and MuleSoft: Powering Digital Transformation for Medical Device Companies

February 27, 2020 Laura Peterson

The healthcare industry is at a crossroads. Patient frustrations with the healthcare experience continue to rise as costs spiral upward without a corresponding improvement in the quality of care, leading to increased dissatisfaction throughout the industry.   

Medical device companies are no different. According to the MuleSoft Overall Market Overview - Life Sciences (2017) report, medical equipment and devices make up 30.7% of the $1.24 trillion life sciences market: a $375 billion bite.  

Increasing Pressure Medical Device Companies

CIOs and med devices companies are increasingly being tasked with cost optimization, but R&D is expensive and when their data is disconnected and inaccessible, it's difficult to see where the operations and links in the supply chain are broken. It's difficult to spot patterns, and given the perfect storm of expectations, it's difficult to know where to start and how to justify the R&D spend. Product development cycles without streamlined approval from regulatory agencies slow everything, including profits. 

Increasing R&D costs and pressure to reduce time to market by streamlining product development cycles combined with the downward price pressure make things even more difficult. Today, with new entrants such as AI-infused MedTech and IoT, there is even more pressure to innovate, differentiate, and stay competitive. Every medical device company must successfully meet the needs of healthcare’s three “customers”: patients, providers, and payers.   

  • Patients sometimes pay the medical device company directly and want the best, cheapest care.   
  • Providers decide which medical devices to prescribe.  They also want the best, cost-effective care, but also want to make ordering simple and build relationships with medical device companies. They can also sometimes influence insurance coverage.   
  • Payers decide whether a device is covered and under what circumstances.  They also influence provider prescribing patterns and patient choices.  

Each has a different influence over the selection of what medical device brand they will be prescribed, but all are becoming more cost conscious.

Additionally, as a highly regulated industry, healthcare organizations already feel the impact of legislative change more than companies in other industries. New regulations on medical devices threaten to eat into margins by increasing operational costs.  

Medical Devices, EHRs, and health systems with data integration points

However, it’s not all bad news. A broadening insurance base and increasing healthcare spend by individuals will lead to a higher overall spend on pharmaceuticals and medical devices. According to the MuleSoft Market Overview: Medical Device/MedTech (2017) report, the projections over the next few years show revenue for medical device companies topping $400 billion.   

So, how does a medical device company compete? They must develop intelligent data analytics and learn how to put insight into action.    

The average company has a complex tech stack, with data scattered across disconnected systems and apps, making it difficult to aggregate and accurately measure the data.  And with new MedTech devices that provide information back to the doctor, the amount of data has grown exponentially. Medical device companies are now attempting to harness their data to unearth answers faster, glean insights, and start identifying trends and opportunities. By using analytics captured from collected data, medical device companies can create metrics to measure things like the success rate of their devices for a specific surgery versus a competitor’s devices.  

How Emergent Technologies Can Help

Modern technologies have emerged as a potential panacea to the challenges that ail the healthcare industry. Cloud, mobile, IoT and big data solutions have all been identified as potential tools to respond to industry disruption. 

Mobile applications and IoT solutions provide a channel for healthcare organizations to better monitor patient health and collect data outside the four walls of the clinic or hospital, leading to improved product performance for many medical device manufacturers.   

But meeting these expectations is easier said than done. The underlying IT complexity behind delivering on these goals can be immense, often requiring medical device companies to extract and orchestrate data from a wide range of systems and applications not designed to meet modern demands. Yet, they must evolve, or risk losing market share to those who can pivot faster and innovate.   

The value and supply chain of R&D, Manufacturing and Distribution, Clinician Engagement, Reimbursement, and Customer Engagement requires a medical device company to connect, extract, and orchestrate data from a minimum of 15 different systems - and depending on the complexity, it could be upward of 50. 

"In the next 10 years, data science and software will do more for medicine than all the biological sciences together. "

- Vinod Klosla, Founder Khosla Ventures. 

The IT Delivery Gap 

IT is increasingly expected to optimize the medical device value and supply chain, drive growth through new product and market development and differentiate offerings through improved clinician engagement.   

The oldest and most common approach to connecting disparate applications, data, and devices is custom code. It’s easy to see why this approach has become so prevalent. On a per-project level, with a limited number of endpoints, hard coding seems like a simple solution to integration that does not require additional tooling.  

It Delivery Gap Visualization

Today, however, endpoints are anything but limited. As MuleSoft’s Connectivity Benchmark Report has indicated, most IT decision-makers now grapple with connecting dozens (even hundreds) of applications across any given project. Amidst this hyper-complex application landscape, point-to-point connectivity creates long-term problems that exacerbate the IT delivery gap. 

Point-to-point approaches might seem attractive for: 

  • The quick delivery of a single project 
  • A limited number of endpoints   
  • A slower pace of change of pace 

However, medical device companies face an explosion of endpoints across an ever-increasing number of applications, data, and devices. Extending a point-to-point connectivity approach across an increasingly complex IT landscape creates a spaghetti code problem. 

Don’t get tangled in spaghetti code 

Spaghetti code is an analogy for what a network can sometimes look like when you have point-to-point integration. Connections are jumbled and can disintegrate quickly, becoming exponentially more complicated as you increase integrations to the network.    

For instance, let’s say your company has 50 connections to a server. But then you need to add another server to your network. All 50 connections must be connected to the second server, and maybe some of those 50 connections now connected to the second server then need to be connected to one another. The result is like trying to untangle spaghetti, in a virtual sense. If the connections start to break down, it can quickly get out of control.  

Spaghetti code server illustration

This scenario often leads to the increased cost to change and a slower time to market for core products and applications designed to serve the needs of the business.  

Custom code is, by its very nature, custom, leaving no opportunity for reuse. As the number of applications requiring access from the same core systems grows, this becomes more and more a missed opportunity.  

Under this approach, a health system that wants to connect various cloud, IoT, mobile, and big data solutions to their EHR must spin up a separate point-to-point interface for each.  

Additionally, the approach leads to a tight coupling of applications, data, and devices. If anything changes to the business requirements, or to the endpoints that an application is connected to, the entire application (or major portions of it) needs to be rewritten. This type of rework drains scarce IT resources, further contributing to the expansion of the IT delivery gap.  

Enterprise Service Buses (ESBs) and Health Level 7 (HL7-the framework for communicating confidential patient information between healthcare organizations) interface engines fail to address the challenges created by point-to-point connectivity. In response to the increasing amount of connectivity work required by IT, many healthcare organizations have adopted ESBs or HL7 interface engines to increase the speed at which developers can deliver integrations.  

Yet, these tools fail to address the core challenges with point-to-point connectivity. While an ESB can help to connect two systems faster, it does not enable that work to be reused across the enterprise, nor does it address the problems created by tight coupling between systems.  

Because ESBs do not address the underlying problems caused by point-to-point connectivity, ESBs, and interface engines only provide modest increases to IT productivity. The magnitude of the IT delivery gap is such, that exponential – not incremental – improvements to productivity are required.  

To better address the IT delivery gap, healthcare organizations must look beyond these dated solutions and consider a new IT operating model that yields productivity gains at scale. 

The need to address shrinking margins, improve patient and clinician engagement, and support the launch of new products and services, has put increased pressure on IT life sciences teams to increase project delivery speed. With an ever-increasing number of projects to deliver, neither point-to-point connectivity nor traditional service-oriented architecture (SOA) approaches are fit for purpose, necessitating a new model. 

API-Led Connectivity 

The API-led connectivity approach, centered around the reuse of system, process, and experience APIs, not only enables the rapid development of new applications, it also promotes loose coupling, making the applications more flexible to changing business requirements. Furthermore, by leveraging APIs to exposed data, this model builds in critical governance, security, and visibility to the exchange of secure patient, product, and business data. 

API-led connectivity embraces the importance of securing and governing APIs. With MuleSoft and the Anypoint Platform, every connectivity asset can be governed using policies. Additionally, every node, connection, and API are automatically registered within the Anypoint Platform. This means that they are inherently secured.  

The Anypoint Platform also provides unparalleled visibility into what applications access which systems and its dynamic policy enforcement enable security and governance requirements to be changed independently of the underlying code, increasing agility without compromising security. 

Connected medical devices can drive self-monitoring by providing real-time data access via mobile or web applications. Similarly, big data confer big benefits for patients by enabling providers, insurers, and medical device and pharma companies to provide personalized care recommendations based on the analysis of outcomes data. And mobile app-based healthcare connects patients to care providers with just a few swipes and taps.  

On-Premises, Hybrid, or Cloud: Deployment environments are evolving with the emergence of public and private clouds. The Anypoint Platform enables healthcare organizations to write once and deploy anywhere - on the cloud, on-premises, or within a hybrid environment. Healthcare organizations can manage their networks as a single framework, regardless of where the API nodes are deployed. 

Accelerating Digital Transformation 

Alongside Anypoint Platform, MuleSoft offers Catalyst Accelerator for Healthcare, a publicly available set of API designs and implementations designed to accelerate the journey to API-led connectivity. These assets reflect best practices from leading health systems, payers, and medical device companies who have successfully implemented API-led connectivity. Catalyst Accelerator for Healthcare is intended to both support the transition to API-led connectivity and to accelerate the development of common healthcare applications.  

Using digital transformation to drive competitive differentiation, modern technologies enable healthcare organizations to more effectively address competitive pressures in a variety of ways, allowing them to reap the benefits of activities like mergers & acquisitions, facilitating better digital engagement, or supporting the launch of new, healthcare innovations.  

Appirio has the expertise to architect and develop the API-led connectivity. We provide a proven methodology for health systems, insurers, and medical device companies to increase IT project delivery speed and close the IT delivery gap. This enables healthcare organizations to deliver on unmet patient expectations and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage through differentiation.  

With MuleSoft and Appirio as partners, healthcare organizations can increase their IT and business agility, enabling them to not only survive but thrive in ultra-competitive environments.   

Related articles:

  1. How Medical Device Companies Are Closing Deals Faster
  2. Patient Engagement in the Emergent Medical Device Space
  3. What Is MuleSoft? A Simplified Look at the Much-Hyped Integration Platform

Want even more great resources? 

Get in touch with a medical device specialist at Appirio.

About the Author

Laura Peterson

Laura leads the Go-To-Market Strategy for MuleSoft at Appirio. She began her career as a Product Manager in Telecommunications, focusing on cellular data products and later on satellite telecommunications. She then transitioned and spent more than 10 years in marketing for a logistics company, working on new supply chain products before marketing SaaS services with Appirio. She currently lives with her family in Paradise Valley, AZ.

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