Proactive and preventative care could be the future of leading medtech business

Market leading med tech company, Tunstall Healthcare, celebrated 65 years of being at the forefront of technology and innovation in the health, housing and social care sectors, but its best years are still ahead according to its MD was invited to be part of the celebrations which included the opening of a new innovation centre at the company’s Whitley Bridge headquarters with Doncaster mayor Ros Jones CBE.

Tunstall’s UK managing director Gavin Bashar discussed the journey the business is on, his predictions for the future and what the next 65 years may have in store.

Bashar started by noting the impact Covid had on the business.

“The pandemic has absolutely stilted our business in the same way that it has many,” he said.

“However over the course of the pandemic we’ve seen a move, certainly by the health service to a much more remote patient monitoring setup, so there’s opportunities for us in that and to drive that.”

However for the MD who has over 27 years experience in the healthcare industry, perhaps the most exciting part of the future for Tunstall is what’s to come from an innovation perspective as a result of the rapid digitisation.

“I keep telling everyone digitisation is an enabler. It’s a changing environment that enables much more digitised interoperable connection.”

He explains that historically Tunstall’s work has been based around a reactive experience in telecare and telehealth services – event happens, alarm triggered, reaction takes place.

He noted that much of this process hasn’t changed in 65 years and added that even today it’s  “still predominantly analogue based.”

However, Bashar explains as a result of more digitisation, Tunstall and the health and social care sectors are on a journey towards proactive services and he smiles “perhaps even predictive and preventive”.

This move towards AI and data driven technology is not one that will happen overnight, he points out.

“The markets not quite there yet, it’s still predominately analogue, so there’s a transition you need to get to because if you think about 1.8m users of telecare and the growing number of telehealth users, you can’t just flip a switch and turn them into digital overnight.

“But we know the fibre highway was originally targeted for 2025 and in the Levelling-Up White Paper was pushed back to national coverage by 2030, so we’re under pressure as an industry to do that switch to protect the vulnerable.

“As such we started our digitisation journey some time ago and we’ve been building a strategy around it – Covid got in the way to some extent for obvious reasons – but as we go we’ve got to get to an understanding of the data sources and where it’s coming from because at the moment it’s all disparate.

“You’ve got health data, you’ve got social care platforms, you’ve got internal platforms for monitoring, so you’ve got all of that and there’s lots of rich data there. So for digitsation your first thought is what data do we need, have we got it and how do we bring it all together.”

The second part of the data story he says requires a decision for Tunstall, once you have the data it is useless unless you “slice and dice it the right way” so Bashar says this is where the business has to consider specialist partnerships.

“At Tunstall we admit it, we’re not data analytics experts, there’s big companies out there, so we’ve been working in partnerships for quite some time actually and looking at other experts in their field. And it’s this approach that leads to that proactive, preventive and predictive environment which will all be underpinned by data and tailored for the individual environment.”

Bashar is keen to emphasise the “individual environment” explaining that this move to a new way of working won’t be a one size fits all response.

“Some regions are heavily populated conurbations, others are quite disparate as far as populous and perhaps don’t have access to GSM (global system for mobiles) or broadband. That’s before you start considering demographics etc.”

He notes the reason it’s important to look holistically at both the health and social care services is that it becomes a virtuous circle, “if hospitals can get patients out of hospital sooner and safer, they free up beds to allow more people to come in for elective surgery and therefore self generating.”

He adds: “Equally if you can monitor people in the community and stop them having incidents which require them to go back into hospital you free up the valuable resource for the NHS which is time and space!”

Looking at the innovations – Tunstall has already created a suite of products designed for today and the future move towards digital – Bashar notes that the business is always looking at the market needs of today and what it might look like in three to four years time.

“If we’re smart” he says with a smile, “and I think we are then we future proof our offering so that it’s iterative, interactive and interoperable with other technology.”

This approach he explains will see the business lean down it’s offering – they currently have a product for every market and every scenario – “so many SKUs you go blind trying to count” – but he says there will never be just one product for all!

As the conversation comes to a close in the new innovation centre, surrounded by the technology which is designed and built at a site which is now surrounded by homes – something mayor Ros Jones notes wasn’t always the case as she shares she started her career with the firm many years ago when it was surrounded by trees – Bashar moves to talk about the future.

“The long term vision for us is to continue as we are and transfer our skills and knowledge and market leading innovation into a digitised world and offering new models of care”

He explains this will mean incorporating third party partnerships and more acquisitions for the company which in 2021 bought Dutch technology solutions provider Secuvita and German business BeWo Unternehmensgruppe.

Bashar notes those acquisitions and partnership will be focused on population health management “specifically with a lens on the key areas that Tunstall is involved in, which is community health and community care.”

Bashar predicts a change in nomenclature but says that Tunstall will be at the heart of the provision for new models of care and that the biggest change may be the business’s focus where it will centre on solutions, platforms and technology rather than perhaps the hardware as a result of a market evolution and the rise of smart technology and wearable technology which is already able to offer cardiac monitoring.