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Utilizing IoT, AR and AI to improve customer experience with fewer technicians and less travel

Stating that COVID-19 has impacted the ability of manufacturers to service critical equipment on-site will be a wild understatement. There is unparalleled demand for ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital beds, oxygen concentrators, diagnostic test supplies, and other critical therapeutic products. Healthcare providers globally have redirected their might to fight against COVID-19. In tough times like these, not being able to deliver field service could mean the difference between life and death for many patients.

Things may not return to normal anytime soon; however, taking lessons from the crisis and adapting ourselves to this new normal will help us define our path for the future.

Organizations need to think out of the box and come up with creative ways to deliver a remote service model. Unlike the conventional break/fix and calendar-based maintenance model, the more modern connected service model leverages advanced technology to efficiently deliver predictive remote support to ensure uninterrupted delivery of quality healthcare.

The Rise of Servitization in Medical Device and Life Sciences

With a changing world and the uncertain challenges that it brings for economies and industries, it becomes quite necessary for businesses to take note of this market metamorphosis and adapt according to it.

A similar change in business practice has been seen in medical equipment OEMs as an increasing share of their revenue is coming from product leasing, services, and sale of corresponding consumables rather than pure selling of equipment. This shift in paradigm has been caused by rising competition, commoditization of some medical devices and changing customer payment preferences. A phenomenon that is being called ‘servitization’ is a result of an industry adhering to this changing market mood and maneuvering its business practices with the help of technology to differentiate based on exceptional service, improved equipment (revenue-generating and patient caring) uptime and capture higher-margin revenue streams.

The New Service-Focused Delivery Model

Traditionally, manufacturing involved building and selling a product. Once a manufacturer sold a product, it simply ceased to generate any revenue for the manufacturer. However, things changed with the introduction of the concept of aftersales. Aftersales brought manufacturers a new revenue stream. The manufacturers started offering regular servicing, repair and monitoring of the health of the product to ensure increased efficiency, reduced downtime and maximum ROI for the product owner.

Advanced services are the latest in servitization within manufacturing. More improvised, and customer-centric, advanced services aim to raise the bar even higher. These go beyond all the traditional models and introduce the subscription model where the client pays based on the actual results or the outcomes and real-world cost that the therapeutic device delivers. This is driven by the big push toward value-based healthcare and also by the healthcare industry’s preference to shift many capital expenses to operational expenses.

This new advanced service-based business architecture gains confidence from the latest connected technologies that have made a foray into the healthcare sector. In a world driven by data, healthcare stands to benefit from the AI, IoT, Data Analytics and Augmented Reality. The future of healthcare looks bright.

Digitization of Healthcare for Better Customer Experience

With the introduction of advanced digital technologies such as IoT, AI, Advanced Analytics and AR, the healthcare sector stands to benefit from improved patient care, greater efficiency and reduced costs.

However, for the OEMs to become service providers, ensuring uninterrupted and reliable services under all circumstances is the key. Leveraging IoT sensors to collect, interpret and deliver machine data can have a huge impact on service quality and subsequently, on patient care. Therapeutic devices embedded with sometimes dozens of connected sensors can make managing and maintaining critical equipment safer and smarter.

Preventive maintenance powered-by AI and driven by IoT and data analytics can anticipate machine or component failure before it happens and provide recommendations for faster and more targeted repairs. For healthcare providers, it means lower downtime, improved patient outcomes and big savings.

Providing prompt maintenance is the key to ensure the optimum health of medical devices. Using the maintenance data from the devices and applying advanced analytics, OEMs can help their customers avoid incurring excessive costs and deliver predictive and prescriptive maintenance.

Minimizing Human Intervention and Travel

Field service almost always requires technicians and experts to be present on-site for the job to be carried out. A technological revolution based on AR and IoT implementation will be very crucial in increasing efficiency and decreasing downtime of the equipment.

Technologies like industrialized smart glasses enable the wearer to access images, videos, and real-time audio and video virtually in their field of view for maintenance walkthrough and checklists. They can even collaborate via live video with other experts located remotely who can provide expert thorough guidance to perform the job correctly the first time. To guide the on-floor technician, an expert could use digital twins where the device and its components are recreated in two places, i.e., one real-time body and the other augmented image that could be accessed through a smart glass, a mobile application. In such scenarios, the services would save a significant amount of resources in travel costs and time.

Several medical equipment and device companies have successfully integrated augmented reality in their field services, and the results have been quite promising.

John Danese, Industry Director, Life Sciences, Birlasoft

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