By MITCH MAIMAN //
Times are challenging and there’s much reason for concern during the COVID pandemic – but, as in any challenging time, such difficulties give rise to new opportunities.
The Long Island tech community, with its infrastructure underlying medical technology, is presented with the chance to create new business value in a late-COVID world. We should also consider the current crisis to be a wake-up call – this won’t be the last virus to come along.
Here on Long Island, with our high population density and close proximity to New York City, we were adjacent to the outbreak’s early “ground zero.” We had firsthand experience with a variety of medical challenges, including difficulties managing healthcare when in-person office visits were suddenly nixed.
All of these issues created technology and business opportunities for innovative Long Island companies.
One issue we observed early on was a ventilator shortage. Within a couple of months, the country was ramping up production of high-tech, feature-rich ventilator systems – but we also discovered that, while ventilators certainly have their time and place, there was a gap where many in non-acute situations could be treated with simpler, less-expensive breathing-assist devices.
Long Island entrepreneurs and universities seized the moment, creating such assistive devices and even earning FDA emergency-use provisions. Now is the time to look closely at the features filling the gaps in these simplified systems – and, with emergency-use provisions lapsing, to put these devices through more rigorous testing and validation processes, to ensure their long-term safety and efficacy.
Another issue, of which we were all painfully aware, was the shortage of PPE. It would seem that New York State, if not the country, needs to develop both a stockpile of PPE and the means to produce more, rapidly and locally.
With the manufacturing base on Long Island, an opportunity exists for local entrepreneurs to create an emergency-production infrastructure that can be thrown into action in a crisis. Lacking a consistent high demand, the state government could provide financial incentives for local companies to build such standby capabilities.
Remote medical care stepped up during the pandemic, but also leaves room for improvement. Through our existing commercial, university and healthcare infrastructure, Long Island has deep expertise in both wireless communications and health-monitoring sensors – making this the ideal region to spearhead a new generation of products that advance telehealth.
For instance, hospitals and larger healthcare systems have “smart sensors” that track vital signs and provide connectivity with the healthcare infrastructure – but there’s a real gap in being able to deploy such simple, low-cost tech outside the healthcare structure.
There’s a need among consumers at home and assisted-care facilities for smart sensors that track oxygen, temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Such products can be part of an “emergency health kit” in every home.
But first, they need a “consumer friendly” means for linking cell phones with healthcare networks. Data being wirelessly transmitted from patient to doctor must be safe and secure – a golden opportunity for software developers, who can create the next-generation applications managing the doctor-patient-doctor data flow.
With a rich technology infrastructure, world-class universities and large health systems, Long Island is in a position to lead the mission to enhance healthcare-management technology, during and after this pandemic and before the next one. Collaboration between government, educators, investors and entrepreneurs creates incredible commercial opportunities – and the best chance for better outcomes.