COVID presents a challenge and an opportunity for medical electronics

The market for medical and health products continues to accelerate. There is still a strong demand for ventilators and other patient-connected systems. The desire to streamline treatments to optimize the valuable time of healthcare professionals increases the need for instruments of all kinds. The telemedicine and e-health markets are also growing rapidly, with medical professionals moving to remotely diagnose, monitor and treat patients outside of a dedicated healthcare environment. This helps 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 meet this demand is limited by the same supply chain challenges that impact the industry as a whole. In the early stages of the pandemic, we created a COVID task force specifically dedicated to accelerating inventory of ventilators and similar essential systems. Anglia always prioritizes these critical medical designs, in partnership with its suppliers, aided by the fact that as a private company we are able to take a strong inventory position. Despite this, we recommend that all customers extend the lead times of their ERP systems and plan at least twelve months in advance.

COVID effect on instrument design
Along with increased demand, the pandemic has had a transformative effect on medical device design and specified components. Obviously, there is the issue of social distancing. Where clinicians previously stood close to patients while setting up instruments and taking measurements, this is now much more problematic. Instruments should now be designed to be used away from the patient whenever possible. Touch screens, until now the preferred user interface technology, are now seen as a potential infection vector. Instruments should be redesigned with contactless two-way communication, such as from a mobile phone, tablet, or other caregiver-assigned device. Finally: a new level of robustness must be integrated. Expected operational demands on medical equipment (operating hours, longevity) have increased significantly and need to be taken into account.

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

Opportunity for medical electronics
Medical electronics will play an increasing role in coping with the pressure that healthcare professionals are under, both directly from the pandemic and from the need to continue treating other conditions despite the depletion of resources available for the make. The demand for medical technology to improve, speed up and simplify treatments is strong. Our customers can capture this demand and benefit from these developments if they think about the supply chain early enough in the life cycle of a project.

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