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Atreus survey on medical technology: Germany as a developing country?

In five years, the global market for medical technology is expected to have a volume of more than 600 billion US dollars. Digital applications are likely to account for the lion’s share. Although Germany is regarded as a pioneer in the healthcare sector, the country appears to be far behind in terms of digital maturity and the networking of health data. How can the German medical technology industry catch up? Atreus surveyed decision-makers from the industry on this issue.

The results at a glance:

  • Particular challenges for medical device manufacturers stemming from cyber security, digitization/automation and Asian competitors; robotics, AI and 3D technologies will gain momentum in the foreseeable future
  • To meet these challenges, companies are focusing primarily on collaborations, internationalization and standardization; start-ups and M&A are playing a somewhat subordinate role
  • Software developers, IT security experts and engineers are as desperately sought after as program, process and project managers; it seems unlikely that this need is capable of being covered by a company’s own recruitment efforts.

The shortage of skilled personnel is particularly pronounced in medical technology. This is because the demands placed on qualified employees in this industry are currently going through major changes.

Far behind in medical technology: Germany as a developing country?

According to a study by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, Germany ranks 16th out of a total of 17 countries surveyed in terms of digitization in the healthcare sector. Digital technologies barely feature in the everyday lives of doctors and patients, while they are already commonplace in countries such as Estonia, Denmark, Spain, Israel and Canada. “This is just not appropriate for a high-tech country like Germany”, observed Prof. Siegfried Jedamzik, Chairman of the Bavarian TelemedAlliance (BTA), who hopes to boost the spread of digital services in the near future.

It goes without saying that a clear health policy is called for in this area, as Prof. Jedamzik is demanding. But what can medical technology players do in concrete terms? To find some answers, Atreus surveyed a total of 34 experts in the summer of 2019, including board members and managing directors, supervisory board members, HR managers, division heads and interim managers at leading medical technology companies, as well as doctors.

Challenges posed by cyber security, automation and Asian competitors

One finding of the survey was that there is a lot of movement in the market. The experts we approached see the most significant changes at the moment as:

  • Offering new services (average of 7.7 on a scale of 1 to 10)
  • Developing new products (7.4)
  • Opportunities for collaboration outside the industry (6.5)


The product and service portfolio of medical technology companies is changing primarily as a result of new requirements for cyber security and data protection (8.6), automation and digitization (7.9) and the increasing networking of systems in hospitals (7.3). This indicates that current practice is not so much about completely new technologies, but rather about the fundamental optimization, digitization and networking of processes and data, as Prof. Dr. med. Werner Plötz confirmed. He is chief physician at the Barmherzige Brüder Hospital in Munich and would like to see “theoretically very simple measures that do not require such highly complex digital systems” to make his everyday medical work easier. The main aim is to minimize manual interventions.

However, robotics, artificial intelligence and 3D technology will also play an important role in the future. On the supply side, the decision-makers surveyed view Asian competitors and GAFA as the main drivers of change, while on the demand side demographic developments and the requirements of hospitals are the key factors. “The future will be characterized by transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in processes”, said Prof. Jedamzik. According to a recent study by McKinsey, digitization can save the sector tens of billions.

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If you are looking for a manager with excellent management skills and in-depth expertise in the medical technology industry, feel free to get in touch.

+49 89 452249-440 Harald.Smolak(at)atreus.de

Cooperation and internationalization rather than start-ups and M&A

How are companies responding to this change? According to our survey, the implementation of the MDR (Medical Device Regulation), which came into force in 2017, is playing a particularly important role (7.9). In addition, market players are currently focusing on:

  • Collaborations (7.7),
  • Internationalization (7.4)
  • Standardization of interfaces (7.0)

 

According to the study, the formation of their own start-ups (4.4), the use of software licenses in their own products (5.9) and mergers and acquisitions (6.2) are less important

Developers, engineers and security experts urgently needed

The shortage of skilled personnel is particularly pronounced in medical technology. This is because the demands placed on qualified employees in this industry are currently going through major changes. The following specialists are particularly sought after:

  • Software developers (8.6)
  • IT security experts (8.2)
  • Engineers (7.7)


Data analysts (7.5) and AI specialists (7.0) are also in demand, as are transformation experts (7.4). However, companies are still trying to meet their demand for skilled personnel primarily through their own recruiting activities. In contrast, HR consultancies, platforms such as LinkedIn or Xing as well as interim management are still relatively seldom used.

In view of the new tasks in medical technology, this is likely to change in the future, especially since the managers surveyed regard the recruitment of suitable specialist personnel (8.0) as one of their central challenges for the next five years – ranking third behind the development of new service businesses and data integrity and security (both 8.2). Decision-makers are also confronted with numerous strategic management tasks, such as process optimization, product development or program management. According to Atreus Manager Achim Dohl, these transformation processes require “an external influence that stimulates, moderates, motivates, but also resolutely and persistently gets down to business – in other words, a manager with head and heart.”

Decision-makers are confronted with numerous strategic management tasks, such as process optimization, product development or program management.

Conclusion

To gain access to pioneers in networked medical technology solutions as quickly as possible, it takes courage to learn from the experience of other industries – and particularly to think in terms of new business models that focus on patient-centered solutions. As the average age of Germany’s population increases, the need for therapies, rehabilitation and medical expertise is growing as a means to guarantee patients professional medical care at a reasonable cost. This requires simplified healthcare processes – combined with the use of intelligent algorithms and the active participation of patients.

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Author: Harald Smolak, Director, Head of Functional Solution Group Human Resources

View Harald's profile.

Atreus is the leading interim management provider in Germany and one of the largest in its field in Europe. We solve difficult operational management and transformation problems quickly and reliably. Contact us and find out how we can help you master your situation with management expertise that is available at short notice and that is the perfect fit for you.

Atreus is a co-founder of Globalise – the market’s leading and largest provider of international interim management. Accelerating change and delivering success. Worldwide. Structured as a global group of leading interim management firms, Globalise has the reach to support you in solving your company’s most important issues around the world.