Indian medical electronics challenges and way forward

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Messe Frankfurt India organized a panel discussion today on the Indian medical electronics challenges and way forward. The global medical device industry has shown constant growth even amid the global pandemic and is currently valued at approximately $423.8 billion.

The medical devices industry in India is estimated to be $11 billion and is poised to grow significantly in the next five years, and reach $50 billion by 2025. India has 750-800 domestic medical devices manufacturers, with an average investment of $2.3-2.7 million and an average turnover of $6.2-6.9 million.

The participants in the panel discussion were:

  • Ms. Sunita Verma, Senior Director, Meity
  • Dr. Rubina Bose, Deputy Drugs Controller, Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO)
  • Sureshkumar R, CTO, CCS India and Digital Incubators, GE Healthcare
  • Dr. Vikram Venkateshwaran, Founder and Editor, Healthcare India
  • Anil Kumar, Senior Technical Manager, LDRA India.

Shinto Joseph, Director, South East Asia Operations, LDRA India, was the moderator. He said there is lot of talk about digital business and digitization. We need to think twice in terms of becoming Aatmanirbhar. We also need to be more proactive in planning our strategies. Regulators, industry players, and skill providers are the three key dimensions, along with the end users. We also need to work proactively to catch up with the world. We are at the lower end of the value chain. Hospitals also need to move up the value chain.

Ms. Sunita Verma, Meity, said that there are many initiatives undertaken by the government of India. About 70 percent of the medical devices are imported. There has to be some plans and methods to promote this area. We also need support for R&D. We have been supporting lot of projects. The focus is to look for high-cost, complex technologies that can be developed indigenously and offered cheaper. We have delivered some solutions so far. We are developing the indigenous colour doppler system, nanobio-based sensors, etc. We are developing the indigenous MRI system. Meity has also implemented schemes for startups. We are also promoting enterpreneurship under the Technology Incubation and Development of Entrepreneurs (TIDE) 2.0 program.

The government has introduced some policies for manufacturing. These can be used for the medical electronics sector. The production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for large-scale electronics manufacturing is meant to provide incentives to producers, in a bid to make India a hub for manufacturing and exports. We are also setting up electronics manufacturing clusters across the country.

Dr. Rubina Bose, CDSCO, added there have been initiatives to take regulatory steps for drugs. The role of regulators is well known during the pandemic. All the medical devices have been notified and they will be amended further. They will be regulated in a phase-wise manner. There are many rules for medical devices. You can defer or abbreviate, as needed. We have also spoken about how to develop, regulate and standardize you devices. It is very clear about how we can go about regarding the regulations.

Anybody can approach the CDSCO for public guidance. The startups and the innovators can come on the platform. Regulatory guidance is always given to them. You can also have your own validated standard, in case no standard is available. Ministries have also brought up specific standards.

Sureshkumar R, GE Healthcare, said that in terms of technology adoption, we have been laggards. However, that has changed in the last 9-10 months. Cloud was also taken up in a large way. You also wanted to have remote patient monitoring. 3D printing is one technology that has not yet been utilized completely. The emerging area is bioprinting, and regenerative medicine. Another area is telehealth. It has now come up. We can expect telehealth to have more growth. Virtual care has been growing in the last year. Another area is 5G. If we have to do AI/ML algorithms, we need data. 5G can reduce lot of time to transfer the data.

These give lot of impetus to data, and AI, AR/VR. Another area is wearables. The quality and diagnostics capabilities need to be monitored. Here also, 5G, telehealth, along with wearables, can play a key role. We also welcome regulations. The expectations need to be understood very well during the development time.

Anil Kumar, Senior Technical Manager, LDRA India, said that software is very important. By itself, it can be a medical device. There are ways and means of devising the reliability of hardware and components. Software should be working as per the design. It can be developed in different languages, support different OS, etc. We also have healthcare software. The devices also need to be categorized. Tools also need to be certified by the other agencies. We also need to take care of device safety and security.

To make India a powerhouse in medical devices, we need to have corporates develop medical devices. We have access to good resources. We also need more dedicated manpower with appropriate skills. Corporates can also help develop the skill building.

Dr. Vikram Venkateshwaran, Founder and Editor, Healthcare India, said that to build a product that can go globally, it needs to address something in the value segment. We have been lagging. We have an opportunity to move forward. We need to understand the value segment that we want to compete in, and identify them. More business discussions are needed. We can also reduce the scan time by using AI/ML. End users are device agnostic.

Ms. Sunita Verma, Meity, added the government is working on projects for biomedical engineering. We need to take up more inter-disciplinary projects. We are also looking at AR/VR medical apps. We can also do value addition at our end. Anil Kumar added that the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is an amalgamation of medical devices and applications that can connect to healthcare IT systems.

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