How the pandemic changed the way health tech is developed

Good afternoon! Last week marked the two year anniversary of the World Health Organization calling COVID-19 a pandemic, so we asked the experts to reflect on the way health tech products get developed and go to market has changed in that time. Questions or comments? Send us a note at [email protected].

Angela Yochem

EVP, Chief Transformation and Digital Officer at Novant Health, and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Novant Health Enterprises

Prior to the pandemic, health care companies and their software vendors were not generally known for rapid development of new functions, granular levels of responsiveness, fluid roadmaps or in some cases even iterative or agile creation methods. Because the consumers of their products were slow and careful adopters, there was no reason to optimize for speed.

The onset of the pandemic compelled these organizations to rapidly build new functions into their products and platforms, as they were forced to incorporate pandemic-related workflows, data sets and functionality in response to the emerging challenges. This tested their appetite for rapid roadmap evolution, their ability to quickly deploy, pivot and deploy again and their ability to make decisions quickly, while still maintaining highest degrees of quality.

Meanwhile, with change comes opportunity — and many new entrants joined the health care ecosystem during the pandemic, creating an environment of greater competition and increased fragmentation. So the general sense of urgency continued to expand, even as the pace of delivery caught up with the demands created by pandemic response.

As a result, speed is now top of mind for all health tech creators. Some have adopted a more rapid and iterative approach to product management, others have streamlined their path to launch of new functions or components and still others have significantly edited their planned roadmap for the next few years. But the most interesting change I’ve seen is the willingness to co-create solutions with a variety of entities across the health care ecosystem. Coopetition is the new way forward, particularly in the face of such enhanced competition, and my belief is that jumping on those co-creation opportunities with unconventional partners will be the way that every product company in health care (and other industries) will compete in the coming years.

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Amit Phadnis

Chief Digital Officer at GE Healthcare


Hospitals are under immense capacity and financial pressures. They need rapid plug-and-play tools that combine different data streams from different points of care to drive productivity and improve patient outcomes.

The rapid increase in patient volume from COVID-19 necessitated hospitals have a holistic picture of the resources they had available — beds, PPE, staffing, etc. In fact, at GE Healthcare we’ve had hospital CEOs remark that they’ve made more progress on digitization than they ever thought they would in the next five or seven years.

Looking ahead, the process of developing new technology is focused around utilizing the vast amounts of data that exists, refining it and making it interoperable so it can be combined with other data sets and third-party

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Imagine A Future Where Technology Is Developed With Humans In Mind

It seems insurmountable today. Digital consumption is rampant. Harms from misinformation to breaches to online bullying to manipulative targeting is spawning an environment of political and societal polarization, increased mental anxiety and even suicides.  With inadequate laws to regulate these digital services, the very rules and policies that have continued to govern the physical world are not able to keep pace with the speed of technology, and properly reflect what is happening in our digital spaces.

Can we have a future where creators of technology can build towards responsibility despite the constant allure of monetization and profits?  I had a chance to speak to David Ryan Polgar, Founder & Director of the non-profit, All Tech Is Human (ATIH) to dive into discussing this critical juncture where heightened consumer awareness has the potential to drive a different story.

This career shift to be the sudden purveyor of responsible technology is what Polgar has attributed to his mother. This is where he credits his ability to reimagine and not be locked in by the status quo. As a child, he was given free reign to invent, reimagine and to mentally start from scratch. 

 “I vividly recall always being encouraged to use my imagination with a diverse range of ingredients to create new dishes that might be outrageous. I wasn’t following a recipe, there was no recipe. That was the point. To throw away preconceived notions of what should be done based on what has already been done. To reimagine. This is a sense of experimentation that has always stuck with me, and I believe has allowed me to not be tethered to a strict expectation around a career path.”

The term, “tech ethicist” was something Polgar was able to develop into a meaningful principle that has allowed people to focus on the seriousness of the technology we are developing and deploying.

The Defining Moments

Polgar admits his path was paved out of frustration that there wasn’t enough deep thought about the impact on society. He came to a realization early in his career that the technology being developed would greatly impact the future of humanity. In particular, he points to artificial intelligence and social media that alter freedom of choice and greatly impact the human condition.  He describes a pivotal moment in 2010 that solidified his journey. 

“I had received a friend request from someone I knew from high school. But before I had the time to confirm the friend request, I heard from another friend that this individual had just taken his life. So here was someone who I now knew was dead, but was actively asking me on Facebook to be my friend. That was an important moment that deeply altered how I thought about technology, and I made it my life’s purpose to help bring greater consideration to how we develop and deploy emerging technologies.”

Another key moment happened in 2012. Polgar was assigned to do jury duty, which would include a

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