Orthopedic medical devices account for 7.5% of the global medical devices market and is expected to grow owing to a globally increasing patient pool suffering from orthopedic disorders.

Notwithstanding, the market is more competitive than ever; orthopedic medical device manufacturers must find ways to continuously be innovative while also keeping up with high-quality standards and complying with the most stringent regulations. In this article, we will discuss how data and analytics can help drive continuous improvement by mitigating supply chain uncertainty, facilitating recalls, and increasing patient safety.


Data helps navigate through supply chain uncertainty

The lack of real-time visibility of assets results in well-identified pain points. What is true in many industries is particularly true in the medical devices industry.

In a nowadays complex environment, with multiple stakeholders involved and a growing demand for high-end medical devices, inventory managers are having a hard time knowing exactly what happens to their devices from the moment they leave the warehouse to the moment they are being used in the OR.

And this is how data and analytics can help fill visibility gaps.

With the deployment of IoT, medical device companies have the ability to track, monitor, and be alerted instantly if something goes wrong in the field. Location and activity trackers embedded in surgical instruments and trays can send real-time data from the field such as location history, tray contents and so much more.

An increased level of transparency across the entire supply chain helps companies better understand how, when, and where their instruments and trays are being used. It also allows for early detection of any disruptions and quick response.

This is what we call end-to-end visibility. It helps prevent lost assets and optimized fleet size when some companies report that “30% of their fleet is here just to cover for potential losses”. It contributes to reducing production costs and, most importantly, improves customer service and satisfaction by anticipating their needs, meeting their needs on time, and by reducing logistic hurdles.


Data smoothens recall processes

Another improvement relates to recall processes. The number of recalls in the medical devices industry is thought-provoking. In 2022, in the U.S., their total number is about 10% higher than the quarterly average for the last five years according to a report from Sedgwick.
Not surprisingly, it has become a top concern for medical device manufacturers.
While the number is high, the total units affected is historically low, the report says.
And this is the magic behind data.
Through tracking and geolocation functions, immediate actions can be taken at the tray or even instrument-level. By improving transparency and visibility, there is no need to conduct large-scale recalls. Only those assets that are impacted will be recalled. It is more efficient, less costly, and improves patient safety.


Data improves patient safety

Patient safety is the first, and arguably the most promising improvement data can bring to the industry.
Data enhances transparency throughout the full product lifecycle and helps to fully guarantee the safe use of medical devices.
Thanks to real-time data, manufacturers can easily track their trays’ and instruments’ location and usage, and be informed if trays are complete, sterile, and up to standard prior to surgery. They can be alerted when assets reach pre-selected maintenance thresholds, or simply when an unexpected event occurs.
When data is readily available, in full autonomy, with no human intervention needed, not only does it increase trust in the healthcare system by enhancing the sense of responsibility, but it can be crucial to patient safety.
In fact, limiting human intervention in data collection prevents human errors or approximation that can lead to potentially damaged instruments being left unchecked and used.

While IoT is making it easier to connect everything together, the future of patient safety lies in trackers embedded in medical devices that can record the full history of utilization and automatically send data to the cloud.

So let’s be optimistic that over the next few years the relatively new idea of turning medical devices into smart devices that deliver smart data will make more and more sense.