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Could Amazon or Google hold the key to the future of public health diagnostics?

By Ivor Campbell - posted Monday, 3 June 2024

Anyone who works in medical technology knows that the industry is currently focused obsessively on two prime targets – maximising the availability of self-testing and playing its part in the common goal to achieve net zero.

To those can now be added a third priority – attempting to find a way to make those twin targets mutually achievable rather than, what seems increasingly to be the case, of them cancelling each other out.

In the evolving landscape of MedTech, biotech, and life sciences, the pursuit of sustainable practices has become paramount.


As well as meeting their own environmental, social and governance (ESG) ambitions, companies know that they are unlikely to win public tenders or private contracts unless they are committed to reducing their carbon footprint.

At the same time, the combination of cash-strapped public health providers and a greater public understanding and acceptance of self-testing, following the Covid pandemic, has seen a general movement of medical diagnosis out of hospitals, health centres and GP surgeries and into high street pharmacies, private testing centres and even in patients own homes.

One of MedTech's abiding ambitions is to satisfy the ongoing demand for a universal reader, akin to the fabled Tricorder from science fiction, capable of performing multiple diagnostic tests on a single platform.

This potential panacea promises not only substantial cost savings but also a significant reduction in carbon footprint.

However, this is where we hit a problem as businesses face the challenge of overcoming a traditional reluctance to share information and ideas that will be necessary if they are to achieve this lofty goal.

A primary roadblock to collaborative efforts stems from companies' disinclination to share intellectual property. The fear of losing proprietary technologies and know-how stifles collaboration, even in the pursuit of groundbreaking solutions. This cautious approach results in smaller businesses continuing to manufacture their own devices rather than pooling resources and expertise.


The push towards near-patient, point-of-care testing, while commendable, faces other practical challenges.

The need for multiple devices to perform various tests creates logistical issues, including space constraints and increased potential for human error.

Additionally, the sustainability aspect raises questions about the environmental impact of manufacturing and disposing of devices, especially those reliant on plastics. Balancing sustainability with functionality becomes a critical consideration.

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About the Author

Ivor Campbell is chief executive of Callander-based Snedden Campbell, a specialist recruitment consultant for the medical technology industry.

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