What medical breakthroughs will the future bring? Possibly one of the most exciting questions there is. Year by year, the annual conjunction of the world's leading medical trade fair, MEDICA, and COMPAMED, the top international industry platform for medical technology industry suppliers, takes us quite a bit closer to finding the answer. This year's dual event from 14 – 17 November in Düsseldorf will show once again that the products developed by medical technology suppliers can have a huge impact in terms of delivering better care to patients in hospitals and the community.
A look at the latest trends and cutting-edge products provides plenty of examples. The basic general trend is in favour of smaller, lower-cost medical devices, with an increasing preference for smart devices with a connectivity option. Accordingly, medical technology companies require suppliers to deliver ever finer, more light-weight yet powerful components, modules, chips and radiofrequency modules, along with the matching energy and data storage systems. Contract manufacturing and outsourcing of services in every element of the process chain (including development, production, supply chain management, quality management and spare parts management) is a growing trend. Whether the medical technology industry customer is a major corporation or small family-run business, suppliers can support them as expert partners.
A concerted and closely coordinated approach helps to ensure best practice and efficient processes in the development, manufacture and marketing of medical devices. Exhibitors – now numbering more than 800 – appreciate COMPAMED so much because of the chance to meet the right people – in this case the almost 5000 exhibitors from the MEDICA trade fair taking place on the same site at the same time, and who represent the suppliers' (potential) customer base. With its special profile, COMPAMED in halls 8a + 8b in the Düsseldorf fairground complex mainly draws technical buyers, R&D and packaging specialists, production managers, engineering designers and process engineers. The fact that 60 percent of trade visitors – 18,800 at the last count – travelled to Germany from other countries to attend COMPAMED is a good indication of the event's international standing.
Product development inspired by digitisation
The increasing pace of digitisation in healthcare is dictating what happens in and around medical technology product development these days. In many areas, the hardware has been relegated to the status of mere deliverer of processing power. The real innovation is in the software. Mobile app-based solutions for medical imaging and cardiology are two good examples. High tech ultrasound transducers, sensors to monitor vital signs – just add a smartphone or tablet connection and you have ready-made fully functional technical solutions for many medical purposes.
Suppliers showcasing at COMPAMED are getting to the top of their game with innovations like these. The big push towards digitization and connectivity is resulting in "bespoke" innovations with varying degrees of vertical integration in the development process to meet the customer's specific requirements, for example as regards user interfaces and navigation for medical devices and systems. This includes matching touchscreens, displays and complex electronics for wireless data transmission. Medical technology industry customers are showing a keen interest in uniform, standardized operating and control concepts for a range of different systems and models. The big advantage for healthcare users lies in not having to learn a completely new set of functions when they use different devices and switch between them.
Digitisation in combination with miniaturisation has obvious benefits in laboratory medicine too. A handy point-of-care device suitable for bedside use replaces an entire hospital lab for blood tests. And with the input of the suppliers and research facilities exhibiting at COMPAMED, it looks like there are plenty more advances yet to come.
Take microscopy: Many small labs are still analysing samples virtually "by hand" and with the trained eyes of large numbers of staff. Either automatic analysers are too specialized or – if designed to cover a broad spectrum of tests – simply too expensive. Based on the latest findings showing that diseased tissue emits and responds to light in different ways, comparatively low-cost automatic scanning methods can now be developed for an increasing number of tests. A novel application to diagnose prostate cancer caused quite a stir at last year's COMPAMED.
Small, sophisticated, powerful
Laboratory medicine is not the only area to benefit from the innovative products delivered by suppliers. Minimally invasive surgery is another. Selected innovations underscore the complexity of modern surgical instruments. A COMPAMED exhibitor recently presented an MRI-compatible microendoscope with ultrasound functionality, equally suitable for diagnostic and treatment purposes. The integrated endoscope head measuring just a few millimetres is equipped with two light guides and an ultrasonic transducer capable of destroying tumour cells on the basis of acoustic waves. This innovation uses dedicated new materials designed for medical purposes, another area represented strongly at COMPAMED. The endoscope is part ceramic, part plastic to avoid interference during MRI imaging. The new instrument with its high tech components is designed for examining the brain in people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or cancers.
Expert fair and forums cover the entire process chain
COMPAMED's offering (halls 8a + 8b) covers the following main areas: components for medical technology (including electronics, parts, tubes, filters, pumps, valves), materials, micro- and nanotechnology, contract electronic manufacturing services (EMS), complex manufacturing and equipment partnerships (e.g., OEM – original equipment manufacturing), packaging and services.
In combination with the world's largest medical trade fair, MEDICA 2016, COMPAMED covers the entire value chain in medical technology – from single component to quality control measurement methods to sterilised and packaged final product. This globally unique trade fair-subject area combination is one of its kind and a key factor in determining the success of both events.
Accordingly, two forums are devoted to relevant trends in the medical technology supply industry. The COMPAMED HIGH-TECH FORUM (hall 8a) hosted by the IVAM Microtechnology Network focuses on microsystems technology, nanotechnology, production technology and process control. Trends such as wearables, sensors and printed electronics are reflected in this forum's program.
The COMPAMED SUPPLIERS FORUM (hall 8b) organised by a trade magazine, DeviceMed, features speakers from leading international companies and organisations who will talk about the latest developments along the entire medical technology process chain. Every discipline is represented here on every scale from low-cost disposables to sophisticated implants. An annual highlight is the presentation of the DeviceMed Awards, which honour special achievements and innovations of medical technology suppliers in various categories.
COMPAMED is likely to get a further boost from the change in event length introduced last year. Starting in 2015, COMPAMED is a four-day event (instead of three as previously) and takes place from Monday to Thursday to coincide completely with MEDICA. The new timings give COMPAMED exhibitors valuable extra time to spend discussing new and current projects with customers and potential clients from the medical technology industry.
As in previous years, visitors can attend both events with one ticket.
COMPAMED 2016 + MEDICA 2016 takes place from 14 – 17 November.
Open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Düsseldorf, August 2016