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On returning from Vienna and PDA’s excellent Universe of Pre-filled Syringes and Injection Devices event, I wanted to share my thoughts on some of the themes I saw emerging from the conference:

1. Hearing the voice of the patient direct – during the pre-conference workshop, Markus Bauss from SHL presented two talks by actual patients with long-term conditions. Dominic Voglmaier was able to attend in person to talk about his challenges with type 1 diabetes and his desire to not let it affect his marathon and endurance training. It was both powerful and reaffirming to hear the real user stories directly and without filter – but left no room for doubt that all the available solutions can get better.

2. Maturing approach to connectivity – my colleagues and I have received many approaches from people who are looking to add connectivity into their devices but, like all features in a product, it has to deliver tangible benefits to justify costs. The PDA event marked a welcome change in emphasis within the drug delivery sector, with many of our client conversations focused on the patient, and how such technology could enhance the user experience. Indeed, this migration from tech-led approach to one where the patient is central is something we see from our work in other sectors, where the value of the experience is increasingly migrating from the product to the service it enables. Our work in medical therapy has led to us advising dialysis equipment manufacturers on future-proofed system architectures that will enable interconnectivity of their machines, potentially leading to seamless decision support. In turn, this also enables them to better safeguard their client relationships and protect their brand equity.  Clearly connectivity is key to all this but such developments must be pursued whilst maintaining a clear vision of all stakeholder benefits.

3. Normalisation of healthcare solutions – more and more devices available on the market include insights and features more commonly seen in the consumer world. The devices no longer predominantly look like something to keep hidden – they have a feel and quality that patients may even wish to show off like a new phone. We demonstrated our new Klarus auto-injector hub in Vienna, which got significant attention on our stand, where the simplicity of use (think the Nespresso of auto-injectors) highlighted just how far a patient-centric approach could be taken. This move towards offering a personalised patient experience is very much consistent with consumer products, where devices such as powered toothbrushes now offer feedback and training (a 3D mouth map) via an interactive smartphone app. 

4. Rapid innovation cycles (RICs) – the pharma world has been accused for a long time of being slow to innovate and risk averse. Justin Wright for Lilly gave an excellent talk on the power of RIC cycles that push engineers and technologists to develop concepts through to demonstrators in a matter of weeks. This approach highlights the immense learning that is achieved by rapidly creating a device in a physical form to find the weaknesses that maybe couldn't be expected or quantified theoretically.

5. A more collaborative approach by companies – I was very proud to co-present our diialog work with Markus Bauss of SHL, and also very interested in the presentation by Brian Lynch of West Pharma on its work with Matchstick, Noble and HealthPrize, comparing the benefits of various connected solutions. I firmly believe that it is rarely the case that one company can truly produce and deliver to market a device that really has the potential to meet all user and stakeholder needs.

Of course, it was also great to meet old colleagues, collaborators and friends at the infamous PDA party!

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