Bipin Thomas

Manufacturers are in the information business now

November 02, 2015
By: Bipin Thomas, Contributor

One characteristic of the era we live in is that nowadays everyone seems to be in the information business.
As a matter of fact, those companies which understand the power information can bring will excel. But they have to be prepared to completely re-think their business model and current relationship with the customer. It is important to be prepared to invert how you think about information.
Many manufacturers, until now, have used information secondarily: it was used to help in the primary process of dealing with their customers. While useful, helpful, and sometimes essential, it was not their core business. But the times are changing at warp speed. Today, at some companies, information is becoming primary — the core offering of the company.

Imagine a company like Nike. Nike is well known for its brand power, products and style, and is thought of as an admirable company. But it is also extremely interesting in terms of how they are looking at a world that has become digital. Nike+ was launched years ago as an experiment. This joint product development between Apple and Nike produced probably the most advanced, high-tech set of running shoes in their time. These could synchronize an iPod to play those songs that would match one’s jogging pace, and then upload data on the run to the Nike+ community to share.
Nike clearly saw the potential, and went for it. They pulled out all the stops on digital and pushed on at a lightning pace. Next, they introduced the Fuel band, a bracelet that traces one’s daily activity. Granted, it was rather limited at the start, but consider this: Nike+ allowed Nike to see what their customers were doing when they jogged, but this bracelet would allow Nike to have contact with their customers all day long. The first version monitors steps, but what if Nike were to add a heartbeat monitor and a temperature sensor?
Nike would then be able to see, all day long, exactly how their customers live their lives, where they are, what they do, how fast their heart races and how flushed they were. Looking back a couple of decades, it is quite clear that medicine, and health care in general, have made great strides. New drugs have been developed based on new insights into how the human body functions. The influence of external factors on one’s wellbeing has been documented and acted upon.
Technological advances allow medical results in hours rather than weeks. But the best is yet to come. More and more data are being gathered for analysis. Even old medical records that have been gathering dust can and are being brought to life, adding more insights that are being developed by data scientists specializing in medicine. New diseases will be detected and analyzed much faster, and treatments for both old and new diseases will come to the market more rapidly.
At the same time, people are obsessing about their health. Today they have more access to information and are becoming smarter in diagnosing symptoms. People want to be in control of their health. They want to monitor the functioning of their body, trying to prevent illnesses and improve the quality of their life. In short: people want to manage their own health. Over the past few years, devices that give people information on their health have come to market, and there are literally thousands of apps that help people stay in control of their health. These devices and apps are generating mountains of data, ready to be analyzed. Patients, doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and scientists will all find ways of using this data to the benefit of science and society.
Today, innovative software is providing new ways for manufacturing companies to gain a competitive advantage. But harnessing that potential from scratch isn’t easy. It requires bringing together device connectivity, data integration and management, data analytics, cloud, and mobility, all in a way that works seamlessly together and intuitively for all the members of one’s business. That’s why some of the medical device product companies are now offering a cloud-based platform that translates information to actionable insights.
This platform allows interoperability with a variety of medical devices and disease management pathways. It generates enormous amounts of clinical data which will help the health care industry in many ways, some of which will come from a personalized baseline for an individual’s health, using aggregated data from a number of wearable devices or sensors. The information-driven business model is transforming the way medical devices are used for delivering personalized care, and this business model is getting much more established with wide adoption of connected devices in the health care industry.
About the author: Bipin Thomas is a renowned global thought leader on consumer-centric health care transformation. Thomas is a board member of Healthcare Business News and chairman of ICURO, a consumer-centric digital care outcomes research and management organization, where he is redefining personalized care delivery by connecting all stakeholders in the emerging health care ecosystem. Thomas is a former senior executive at Accenture and UST Global, where he launched strategic digital initiatives across the care continuum including providers, payers, medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical and life sciences, federal and state health agencies.