Pinnacle of success: Why Olympus has become a medtech pioneer – Med-Tech Innovation

Olympus is globally recognised for its optical and digital precision technology. Lu Rahman speaks to Francis White, director of medical & surgical business, Olympus KeyMed to find out more about the company’s medtech expertise and its far-reaching medical goals.

LR: Olympus Medical Systems has been innovating for 65 years. Tell us about some of the company’s latest medical innovations

FW: Olympus was founded in 1919 and launched its first gastro-camera in the 1950s. Since then we’ve been medtech leaders, especially in the field of endoscopy.

We have developed and released a range of innovative products, culminating in our flagship technologies, the Evis Exera III and Lucera endoscopic video systems. Most recently, we have launched PowerSpiral; the world’s first motorised endoscope. These innovations have been developed in close consultation with the healthcare professionals who use them, listening to their needs and striving to deliver solutions that enhance clinical care.

Olympus plans to remain at the forefront of medtech development and we will continue to seek out innovative ways to meet the healthcare demands of the future.

LR: Tell us about Thunderbeat…

FW: Thunderbeat is the world’s only energy system that delivers the two most-established forms of energy to tissue simultaneously. Thes are ultrasonic energy for superior dissection and fast tissue-cutting capability, and advanced bipolar energy for fast and secure haemostasis for vessels up to and including 7mm in diameter

This system allows for sharp and blunt tissue dissection, even in hard-to-reach places such as deep pelvic areas. User feedback to date, has been extremely positive and we hope to see it continue to be that vital tool for surgeons in clinical practice.

LR: What would you say has contributed to the company’s longterm success?

FW: There are many elements to this, but some factors stand out. We have shown a commitment to innovation in the research and development of optical and digital precision technology – especially in the field of medtech. We listen to our customers and support them with an field team who earn their trust.

Other factors include cooperation and partnerships with healthcare professionals to develop innovative product solutions to address clinical challenges. We ensure that we invest in professional training. We have a bold purpose that unites all employees – to make people’s lives around the world healthier, safer and more fulfilling. And of course, we possess a strong vision in the core business, medical endoscopy: to put colorectal cancer (CRC) into the history books

LR: You have a 70% global share of the gastrointestinal market – how does the business sustain this competitive edge? What are your main drivers and challenges?

FW: We are incredibly proud of the partnerships we have established with our customers and the continued trust they put in us to develop and deliver innovative, safe and reliable products.

What drives us in our daily business is our vision to one day make CRC history. One of our biggest challenges is that whilst we continue to strive for technological excellence – which can undoubtedly support healthcare professionals in saving lives – this alone will not be enough and we are only able to improve the overall standard of CRC screening with the participation of all other stakeholders – such as hospitals, healthcare systems and health authorities. We need to find new, compelling ways to engage and activate these key groups.

LR: You are listed as one of the top 100 Global Innovator Companies. What does this mean to the business and what makes you so innovative?

FW: We have close relationships with our customers and we have a regular dialogue with them to understand what they need in order to achieve positive healthcare outcomes for their patients.

We also have a wealth of experience from our 100-year heritage, but at the same time fully embrace new approaches. For example, we recently initiated a partnership with an emerging industry newcomer, an AI technology company named AI4GI. We believe this partnership will help us build for the future by incorporating cutting edge technology into our core business, medical endoscopy and beyond.

We also always consider the clinical impact of our decision-making process and take a long-term view of societal challenges, which we feel sets us apart from companies that tend to prioritise short-term business goals. For example, we are committed to finding ways to help make CRC a thing of the past.

LR: The healthcare sector has changed significantly in the time that Olympus has been supplying its solutions. Today, we constantly hear about the effect digital solutions will have on healthcare. How has the company addressed this and how do you see these types of technologies transforming the industry?

FW: The world in which we operate has certainly evolved over the last 100 years and the opportunity that we now have to accelerate positive change is incredibly exciting. As we mentioned, we are already moving in to the AI space to support physicians with detection and characterisation tools that aim to improve their daily work. From a broader perspective we are also seeing digital optimisation of clinical workflows in gastroenterology departments, resulting in shorter patient waiting lists and accelerating turnaround times for patients.

LR: We hear a lot of talk about the importance of collaboration between manufacturers and healthcare professionals. Is this approach important to the business and if so, why?

FW: Yes, it’s indispensable. Healthcare professionals can give us a unique perspective on what is really needed and what their challenges are. As with the movement toward digital and AI approaches, we are focusing more and more on the younger generations of gastroenterologists, as their needs sometimes differ from those of established experts.

Investing in round-table discussions to learn about new clinical trends is also a key to success.

And, of course, the promotion and implementation of training and education initiatives is crucial. All with the shared goal of extending the limits of endoscopy and, one day, making our vision come true by making CRC history.

LR: Your website states that you are ‘committed to conducting partnerships between industry, healthcare professionals and HCOs’. Why is this significant to you?

FW: Building partnerships with our healthcare professional customers is one our top priorities. However, the cooperation with healthcare organizations (HCOs), especially the associations of medical specialties, is no less crucial as it is their guidelines that allow the adoption and integration of new evidence-based technologies. Here, too, we see ourselves as a strong partner to jointly advance clinical progress.

LR: Where do you see the medtech sector heading in the next ten years?

FW: We see digitalisation as a major focus in medtech. Clinical workflows in particular are becoming increasingly automated and today’s medtech devices will have to interact with each other to an increasing extent. Patient records will be digital and ideally all medtech devices will be able to process and share medical records in a secure, direct and automated way.

We also believe that AI will become an established and integral part of the medtech sector. This may feel revolutionary to many areas of the healthcare system, but we are sure AI will find its place as a trusted tool for healthcare professionals – and for the health of patients. Naturally at Olympus we aim to play an active role in shaping this process. 

LR: What advice would you give younger companies entering or thinking about entering this market?

FW: You must understand the needs of healthcare professionals and the patients that they treat.

Without their crucial input you will never fully understand how to support them. Patient health and safety has to be your highest priority; any technologies that are created must work perfectly. Every. Single. Time. Finally, regulatory requirements should not be seen as a hurdle – they are there for a reason. Work with regulators as a collaborative and inclusive partner.

All this requires an uncompromising approach to meeting the very highest standards of product and service quality.

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