Trends for The Future of MedTech: Insights from WGSN's Futures Summit, Melbourne

Note: This event and article was written in 2017. We are extremely grateful to WGSN for the insights and opportunity to attend, and hope you find it useful.

We’re fascinated by trends from diverse industries, and how they impact healthcare. Patients and medical professionals alike are also consumers, and as we all grow more empowered through tech, we’ll find more trends cross-pollinating from healthcare to other industries. Similarly, it’s fun making predictions and seeing how they fare. 

We were delighted to attend WGSN’s Futures Summit in Melbourne and learn about their work. WGSN are the world’s leading body for trend prediction and analysis in areas such as fashion, design, activewear and textiles. They crunch data through curated studies across the world, helping brands create products that better serve the world’s consumers. 

If you’re planning your next app, wearable, social enterprise or public health innovation, or even considering investing, here are some insights we picked up (and which are coming to fruition as we speak!.

1) The world has shifted from the Experience Economy to the Meaning Economy.

Lorna Hall, Head of WGSN Insight, described how we’re shifting to the Meaning Economy, where consumers’ ideal products are selected based on depth of emotion and sense of purpose, rather than the pure functionality or entertainment of previous generations of goods.   

This is a reaction to geopolitical instability combined with the growing awareness of tech’s ability to both engage with and isolate users, bringing out more loneliness, stress, and symptoms of mental illness. Meaning is also conveyed through the rise of the sharing economy.

In a practical sense, we see this through products being created not just for entertainment, but for the nurture and care it brings the user beyond immediate experience. Perhaps it’s a reflection of our connected generation, where we’re used to linking with strangers across the world after a tragedy. “(We have) a need for more products that care for us,” explained Ms Hall, and indeed we’re starting to see care being communicated through the language and design of medtech websites, along with the pleasing design of activity trackers and mobile apps. An interesting example was e-skin, printing electrodes onto tattoo paper, creating a simple wearable that can change the volume on your phone, for example, and potentially other functions (we’re imagining being able to trace your ECG through smart wireless electrodes one day!). Meditation and mindfulness apps, some with gamification, are also increasingly part of the Meaning Economy.

2) Experience Design will incorporate Personalisation as part of the Meaning Economy

“There is opportunity in reading emotion,” said Gemma Riberti, the Senior Editor of WGSN’s Design and Product Development division. If you can customise your handbag’s initials or even change the colour of your future car according to your mood on the day, you will be able to curate your own experience in healthcare.

Personalisation also goes beyond reading emotion. Activity trackers and consumer-grade wearable biosensors are evolving to give health reminders when data points (such as high blood pressure) are detected. Consumer-grade genetic testing kits are also gaining popularity as part of the personalisation trend. Additionally, as part of her Wellness presentation, Greer Hughes, Consultant Director of WGSN Mindset APAC predicted the rise of startups based on our increasing understanding of the gut microbiome’s potential effects on physical health and wellbeing. The ethics of generalising test results from “personalised” DNA kits to fit a wide range of customers is an issue to consider when weighing up the benefits of such products, and it’s worth remembering that the Therapeutic Goods Administration and other official bodies help to regulate medical grade versus consumer grade products and devices. (There are also jobs for doctors interested in being part of the TGA approvals process!)

3) The Maker Movement and acknowledging the links between Creativity and STEM produce more healthcare solutions designed by non-healthcare professionals.

We love cognitive diversity, and clearly, WGSN does too. Monash University design student Nathan Huo won the WGSN and Artsthread award, with his app Mindcare storing and retrieving memories (photos and other media) for people affected by dementia. Inspired by his family’s own personal experience through dementia, Nathan also included augmented-reality gaming within the app, serving as a fun and useful memory aid for dementia sufferers that family can enjoy using as well. Collaboration with non-medical creatives will be on the rise as hackathons, co-working spaces and job mobility increase around the world, and we hope events and blogs (like ours :) ) help promote that sense of diverse thinking and wonder. Imagine when design becomes a key part of medical education!

4) People will either fully embrace wellness products or shun them completely

Greer Hughes, Consultant Director of WGSN Mindset APAC, took the audience on a timeline tour of the wellness industry’s growth. Currently, her consensus is that in 2018, people will either fully embrace wellness, or experience an “absolute backlash” towards it. The saturation of news stories and social media posts about superfoods, alternative therapies and wellness retreats likely contributes to this. This poses an opportunity (as ever) for medical practitioners to learn and understand the sentiments behind embracing wellness fads: the fear of the unknown, as a patient; and thus the need to empower oneself and take charge of one’s health, as a consumer. Non-medical consumers clearly want to understand the science behind health trends; it’s when an “us versus them” approach can be permanently harmful to the doctor-patient relationship.

If clinicians take charge by forming medically-sound, evidence-backed wellness apps and products, for example, mindfulness-training apps, then consumers will have more medically-approved choices available. Asking the patient/consumer what they want as a part of human-centred design is a great method to produce multi-user integrated apps such as CancerAid and telehealth platforms such as Lysn

5) Work cultures are becoming more inclusive and collaborative

Wellbeing at work is transforming employment patterns and work environments around the world. We feel this as a response to higher burnout and stress rates at work; with recent studies across the globe showing a higher number of workers taking sick leave in numerous industries, and the effects of overwork on organisational productivity. Additionally, burnout has been linked to loneliness at work. The growth of coworking spaces and shared work communities such as WeWork will help companies innovate, not only through the value exchanged when a small startup shares office space with Facebook or Hewlett Packard; but also through flexible working policies, and a greater understanding of what drives workplace retention: a sense of purpose (hello, meaning economy!). WeWork Australia’s General Manager, Balder Tol (who was Airbnb Australia’s first employee!) shared the benefits of workplace collaboration, and WeWork’s vision for Australia as it continues to roll out across the globe and acquire other companies such as coding academy Flatiron School. Cognitive diversity is acknowledged when teams share resources across organisations, and build workforces based on diverse educational and cultural backgrounds rather than being of similar skillset and training.

We’re seeing this in medicine as well. Never before has there been so much focus on doctor and clinician wellbeing, and clinicians’ mental health. Creating positive workplace cultures in hospitals and clinics, especially in the fast-paced Acute Medicine world, will help doctors and other healthcare workers feel valued, even through stressful times. Websites like ours (we hope!) help to shed light on the true meaning of being a clinician in the 21st century; the struggles, the highs and lows, the uncertainties, and the humanity and strength that grows from these experiences. It’s incredible seeing how more doctors are feeling comfortable blogging and sharing their experiences, to help bring positive change across the world. We suggest following some of these websites: Dr Eric Levi; Doc2Doc; and no doubt many others around the world.

6) The future of mobility and smart cars in healthcare

Nissan Australia’s Managing Director, Stephen Lester gave an inspiring talk about Nissan’s vision that helped us think about the future of mobility in healthcare. Autonomous driverless cars will help ferry time-critical goods such as blood products and organ donations from one place to another. And how about the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on a car’s function, perhaps being able to monitor a passenger’s medical devices and biometrics while on the go?

7) As more of Facebook’s VR and AR functions are released, new and existing startups will pivot to include these in their products and marketing strategies.

Facebook’s APAC Head of Tech and Telecom Strategy Jason Juma-Ross gave attendees a sneak peek at some of Facebook’s and Hololens’ innovations, due for rollout in 2018, including augmented reality integrated into the News Feed. We’ve seen VR headsets being adopted by the mass market, and Facebook creating VR Spaces and developing its Messenger and Live capabilities. Facebook Messenger is already being used by chatbots to help triage and support users facing mental health problems. Imagine how AR will be able to enhance that communication.

Further Reflections: Cybersecurity and Ethics

We all know that AI, augmented reality and VR will mature and become more widely adopted by consumers. Security is the concern as users increasingly want more, now, and connected devices gradually outnumber consumers in 2018, with businesses scrambling to please customers as fast as they can. If IoT devices like smart fridges or Amazon Alexa can be hacked, and retail outlets reportedly use facial recognition to track shoppers’ behaviours, more needs to be done to protect the public. Participating in cybersecurity and ethics discussions at a local level, or even at an Elon Musk-level, will help consumers make safe and meaningful choices when pursuing good health and wellness.

Thank you to WGSN for providing The Medical Startup with a media pass, and to Jennifer Callegari for her help coauthoring and editing this article. 

Deceleration as a Tool for Identity and Preventing Burnout

I was listening to The Tim Ferriss Show (his podcast), Episode #295, where he goes into “The 4-Hour Work Week Revisited.” If you’ve read any of his books, or even if you’ve just heard of “The 4-Hour Work Week,” I highly recommend listening to it. He has some thoughtful insights from the unprecedented response to his most famous book on working well, productivity and “lifestyle design”, and answers some of the most commonly asked questions he’s received since first publishing it over ten years ago.

Approximately midway through the episode, Tim discusses what he believes is the most important and overlooked chapter, “Filling the Void.” In a nutshell, the chapter is about what the reader could do after finding their success on their terms; automation, fantastic cashflow, a great team, flexibility, low stress; as detailed in the book. However, Tim has found that people too often mistake the chapter as being a treatise on the benefits of lifelong idleness after achieving “success” in this manner. Furthermore, he believes people who misread this chapter may misunderstand how to relax well.

“It’s about contribution; getting yourself out of a ‘me, me, me!’ focus, so that you’re hopefully putting a positive dent in the world, in a way that extends outside of yourself and your immediate family, and hopefully has some persistence over time,” says Tim. “And taking the tools you’ve developed in a business capacity, and applying them to impact in some fashion. I expect many people skipped (the chapter) because they don’t expect to succeed…. But (perhaps) what started out as a party or a celebration ends up being really lonely, they feel isolated and don’t know how to address that…. and by thinking about filling the void, about starting to incorporate those pieces into your life, BEFORE you end up in a challenging psychological position where you end up being reactive, … since you haven’t filled the void with anything non-business related, you’re going to continue to work for work’s sake. This is really common for people who succeed in any capacity. .. It’s really rare you see someone who’s been in sixth gear for a very long time, who then retires and is really good at chilling out. Learning to relax and enjoy other aspects of life, and engage with people around you- friends, community or built community- those are skills you need to practice and develop, just as you need to develop and practice the skill of split testing (ie. A-B testing) to anything else. It’s not a default ability you have as soon as you stop.

“They can be really existential (issues) for someone. If the business has been your identity for a long time, and all of a sudden you want to replace that, if you don’t have a compelling replacement, you’ll just continue working because you don’t want to have to sacrifice that identity.”

(If you don’t have a business, feel free to replace it with “work” in the quotes above to apply to your situation.)

I think this is why people have trouble taking a break; even if you haven’t felt that you’ve reached your ideal of “success” yet; even if you’ve failed or had a hard time and wanted to distance yourself from your work for a time; in order to recuperate. If your identity’s so wrapped up in your work (and don’t worry, you’re not odd- it’s very common in medicine and startup land), you’ll feel that strange sense of time stretching out, empty and unfilled, and you’ll perhaps feel guilty for having that free time, and try to keep “busy” by filling it up with quick dopamine rushes, which may be simply starting a bunch of new projects with too much zest (who doesn’t love enthusiasm?), or at their extreme, can include overspending, binge eating, even drugs and so forth.

Or maybe you don’t experience any of that, but you think that to fill that void, you have to go back to work ASAP. And if that work environment was toxic for you, or you had issues to work through that you didn’t get addressed while having time off, those issues can quickly reappear, or be amplified, creating an even worse situation for yourself.

And the worst is that you may feel you’ve trapped yourself.

But there’s always a good way out.

You can be proactive about this.

As Tim suggests, no matter where you’re at in life, you can start today by asking yourself if you’re enjoying enough time with your friends/loved ones; if you’re doing something meaningful to you that is part of your identity, like a hobby that isn’t directly related to your work; or you can start something new, a new activity or hobby that helps build your identity beyond your medical life or startup life. You need to know that you’re valued beyond the workplace. And if you do find that you want to go back to work, that’s okay, but you could consider an option of trying a different work environment; working fewer hours/part time; or changing your work style in some other way. (A burnt-out, bullied doctor shouldn’t necessarily jump straight back into the exact same workplace; locuming a couple of days in a different workplace, or volunteering your compassion, integrity and other qualities into a tutoring job for homeless children, let’s say, could help you recuperate and feel fulfilled beyond your initial job description.)

It takes time to decelerate; even a car doesn’t do it gracefully when the brakes are slammed on! Patience with yourself will go far.

Feel free to comment below with your thoughts!

Don't Be Afraid

Don’t be afraid to say no to a deal that isn’t fair.

Don’t be afraid to walk away from teammates who don’t support you, despite false words and appearances.

Don’t be afraid to walk away from those who discredit you and your hard work.

Don’t be afraid to call out what’s wrong.

Don’t be afraid to believe in you.

Don’t be afraid to persist.

Don’t be afraid to wait to figure out your next move.

Don’t be afraid to walk away from that which doesn’t nourish you.

Don’t be afraid of time.

Don’t be afraid of change.

Don’t be afraid of success.

Don’t be afraid of happiness.

Don’t be afraid of your dreams.

Don’t be afraid to put your health first.

Don’t be afraid to put your loved ones first.

Don’t be afraid to say what’s tough.

Don’t be afraid to have values.

Don’t be afraid to care.

I hope this helps you.

The Australian Startup Aiming For Zero Waste In Healthcare

Globally, there’s been increasing awareness - and action- regarding sustainability and climate change.

Healthcare is no different.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the tonnes of unused, sanitised medical supplies found in well-stocked hospitals and clinics in the developed world?

The pristine cannulas and IV drips. The instruments in the operating room. Even the surgical gloves.

Melbourne anaesthetist Dr Martin Nguyen studied this with Hospital Sustainability expert Dr Forbes McGain and their team, and was perturbed by the findings that, in one week in Melbourne, 23% of waste generated from six operating rooms was recyclable. Was it feasible to recycle this waste? The study showed that, yes, it was, both financially and with infection control integrity.

This brought Martin back to his journeys on medical missions trips, where, he says, “in isolated pockets of Vietnam, I noted these communities were in desperate need for medical supplies, but did not have connections or the resources to reach out.” Furthermore, “we discovered (through our research) that there were unused items thrown out into landfill. This practice upset many staff who were avid reducers and recyclers at home, but had to be wasteful at work. They were keen to collect and donate these supplies, but did not know where to send it to.

“This is where the inspiration for Medical Pantry came from. The Medical Pantry sits in the middle to match the needs of undeserved communities with the generosity of the givers.”

Since inception, Medical Pantry has successfully donated high quality, unused clinical goods to communities worldwide, including in Tonga and Papua New Guinea. Led by Martin and a team of eager volunteers, goods are readily donated from hospitals and clinics, and are given to recipients usually via clinicians on missions trips and other aid ventures. Goods can also be used locally; wildlife sanctuaries have benefited, along with local businesses in Victoria’s Western Health district; local clinics may run short, and mechanics find the unused, sterile kidney dishes useful! However, Martin envisages a future where tech enables donors to match recipients’ needs directly online, saving further costs, time and resources that can then be put to use expanding the reach of their work.

A hospital in Papua New Guinea using donated goods from the Medical Pantry.

A hospital in Papua New Guinea using donated goods from the Medical Pantry.

“Our ultimate goal is for the Medical Pantry to not exist at all - for there to be no waste from the healthcare system,” says Martin. “But, while there is waste, the Medical Pantry will find a second life for medical supplies and stop it heading to landfill. I hope in future, this will be a national program with collection/distribution centres in each major city in Australia. I believe the data collected will raise awareness and feedback to those in healthcare to help achieve zero healthcare waste.”

Currently, Medical Pantry is in the running for up to $100,000 in local government grants to help with more permanent warehousing, distribution and storage. (People with Victorian addresses can vote for Medical Pantry to receive funds in this grant, until 5pm, Monday 17 September.) However, to fulfil its dream of recycling goods in other cities and expanding its reach, it will need more funding and support beyond this grant. It’s amazing what impact local work can have on global health.

To reach out to Medical Pantry regarding funding or other support, please visit medicalpantry.org or facebook.com/medicalpantry.

All images in this article courtesy of Medical Pantry.

Best Reads This Week, September Edition

We’ve been quiet for awhile! Hello again :)

It’s great to be back!

We’ve got a lot happening at The Medical Startup- thankyou for bearing with our site facelift as it happens.

For now, entertain yourselves with a roundup of some great articles we’ve enjoyed from around the Web this week.

  • Beth Comstock’s a CEO- and an introvert. Tips and strategies at Girlboss.com.

  • Clinical trials are underway for novel early-stage cancer screening through a simple blood test. (The article’s from January but still relevant!)

  • Our friends at Lysn have been listed as one of the top 5 Mental Health social enterprises in tech to watch, along with other inspiring startups. Check out the full list at Social Change Central.

What are some articles and resources you’ve enjoyed recently? Share your finds below!

How Co-Working Spaces Can Help You And Your Startup

First published June 2, 2016

 

Wondering what co-working is? We visited two major co-working spaces in Perth-  Spacecubedand its sister space Flux, to find out.

Co-working spaces are community spaces for working on and building your startup, sole trader enterprise, or scaling business. Spacecubed just held Australia’s first Mental Health Hackathon, MindHack. Its success means another MindHack is in the works!

Co-working spaces are also, by definition, a space for working with other businesses, at various stages of a business lifecycle and from a range of different industries. Startups and sole founders can be very isolated, and co-working helps to solve this problem. Membership flexibility allows businesses and sole founders to adapt as they require, and the space is built to facilitate networking and collaboration, as well as quiet -room working spaces and longer-term office leases.

Spaces tend to offer a rotating program of activities that can help its members, for example, SEO tutorials, legal advice, games events, pitching tips, and drinks. Some of these events may be open to the wider community.

 

Spacecubed offers packages including mentorship and legal advice for its members. Photo: The Medical Startup

 

Spacecubed Marketing Manager Matt Kirk kindly took us on a tour one Wednesday, showing us the varied office spaces, desks and personalities inhabiting Spacecubed over several floors. Home to startups across a range of industries, co-working helps members cross-pollinate ideas, resources and perspectives that they wouldn’t encounter otherwise . Having neighbours who are coders, engineers, designers, or copywriters from fintech, education, photography and even space tech, helps new connections and, potentially, new startups form. Mentor programs also run from many spaces.

 

Spacecubed, Perth. Photo: The Medical Startup

Hot-desking options allow members to meet and greet while working in different spaces. Office space for more established companies are also available for hire. Part-time and full-time memberships are on offer, and many spaces offer one-day or even free introductory rates. Packages at most co-working spaces exist to be flexible, starting from daily rates to monthly or even yearly memberships. Spacecubed also offer a day of free co-working at partner locations across Australia, and this helps foster connections between communities across the country.

Housed in the former Reserve Bank of Australia headquarters, Spacecubed has different floors for levels of quietness during work hours. Meetings can be held in a soundproofed former bank vault. And, further down the road at Flux, businesses can use the new maker labs with 3D printer, virtual reality lab, and prototyping materials – a first for co-working in Perth. Introductory packages are on offer to coincide with Flux’s opening this month.

 

A peek inside a demo office at Flux Perth. Photo: The Medical Startup

The other benefit of co-working spaces tends to be location. Both Spacecubed and Flux are situated along the CBD hub of St George’s Terrace. The area’s bank facades and glass windows are punctuated by shortcuts to some of Perth’s best bars and dining areas for business meetings and post-work meetups. I snuck over to the Print Room for a meeting, chomping kale salad while my colleague had a drink, and, later, The Apple Daily Bar & Eating House for a dinner catchup. (Melburnians, think Chin Chin with less queuing and a more Malaysian twist.) Perth’s startup scene may not be as well-known as Sydney and Melbourne, but its geographical isolation, strong education institutions and quiet beauty has helped it become a major player in Australia’s startup community.

For more details and to book a free tour, visitSpacecubed‘s and Flux’s websites.