COVID presents challenge and opportunity for medical electronics - By John Bowman, Marketing Director, Anglia Components

Thought Leadership published by Anglia, under Components, Healthcare Applications, Operations, PR

The market for medical and healthcare products continues to accelerate. There is still a high demand for ventilators and other patient-connected systems. The drive to streamline treatments to optimise the valuable time of healthcare professionals is increasing the requirement for instruments of all kinds. Telemedicine and eHealth markets are also expanding rapidly, as medical professionals move to remotely diagnose, monitor and treat patients outside of a dedicated healthcare environment. This is helping to reduce the burden on health services and at the same time has the added benefit of limiting potential exposure to the virus for both parties.

Supply chain challenges
Our customers’ ability to fulfil this demand is constrained by the same supply chain challenges that are impacting the industry as a whole. In the early stages of the pandemic, we established a COVID task force specifically dedicated to expediting inventory for ventilators and similar essential systems. Anglia is still prioritising these essential medical designs, in partnership with its suppliers, helped by the fact that as a privately owned company we are able to take a strong inventory position. Despite this, we recommend that all customers extend the lead-times on their ERP systems and forecast at least twelve months ahead.

COVID effect on instrument design
In parallel with the surge in demand, the pandemic has had a transformative effect on medical instrument design and the components specified. Most obviously there is the issue of social distance. Whereas clinicians were previously standing close to patients when setting up instruments and taking readings, this is now much more of an issue. Instruments now need to be designed to be operated at a distance from the patient wherever possible. Touch screens, until now the preferred user interface technology, are now seen as a potential infection vector. Instruments need to be redesigned with a touchless 2-way communication such as from a cell phone, tablet or other device allocated to the carer. Finally: a new level of robustness needs to be built in. The expected operational demands on medical equipment (run hours, longevity) have increased significantly and need to be addressed.

COVID effect on volumes
The pandemic has changed not only the nature and design of the instruments required but also the volumes in which they are manufactured. We are seeing medical equipment that is normally made in quantities of hundreds per week now manufactured in thousands per week. This means that specialist medical manufacturers need to consider adopting some of the disciplines already well established in the consumer electronics space. Their situation is made more complex by the current exceptionally challenging supply chain situation in our industry. The best advice we can give is to be realistic about what you need and when. Anglia has invested in its customers and its business by vastly increasing its own forward ordering when stock was still relatively plentiful. Even so, the stock and forward orders we have will only go so far. Simply provide us with your best forecast as far forward as you can, but don’t over-order, this allows us to make the most of the supplies that we can secure.

Opportunity for medical electronics
Medical electronics will play a growing part in addressing the pressure that healthcare professionals are under, both directly from the pandemic and by the need to continue treatment of other conditions despite the depleted resources available to do so. Demand for medical technology to improve, speed and simplify treatment is strong. Our customers can capture this demand and benefit from these developments if they think about supply chain early enough in the lifecycle of a project.

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