The Medtech industry is constantly evolving to accommodate new technologies and increased access to healthcare solutions. By embracing innovation, the industry is finding new ways to transform how patients receive treatment, especially in an increasingly digital, customer-centric industry. A number of different trends have shaped the industry over the past few years, and a few new trends on the horizon are already beginning to offer a bevy of different opportunities for medtech players big and small. But which of these trends are worth keeping an eye on?
A big part of the future of Medtech development will depend upon the analysis of big data and health records, where incredible amounts of information are generated and aggregated. As big data enables patient data analytics, personal health record (PHR) vendors and developers of modern health technology are expected to invest in innovation to benefit from all this data. Using AI and machine learning techniques, we can now analyze data and identify patterns, but access to that very data is still sensitive and complicated. All this data from clinical and non-clinical sources will need to be protected as it is being shared across platforms. To secure this right for privacy and security, new technology such as blockchain distributed ledger technologies will definitely find its way into healthcare. Robotics and automation are making robotic surgery and telemedicine-enabled surgical interventions a reality. Exoskeletons became an accessible and relevant use case for orthopedics. And 3D bioprinting (i.e., printing organs, bone, and teeth) is yielding promising initial results, though too early for mass-market commercialization. Blockchain has some promising applications in supply chain and electronic medical records.
Finally, the impending next wave of mobile technology or 5G capability will allow for much more efficient and prompt device-to-device communication, thus making the medical Internet of things (mIoT) an operational reality. In the upcoming decade, the medical device industry will be differentiated largely by integrating mIoT features into its product design. Clarify Health Solutions develops analytics and software solutions that enable health systems to deliver more satisfying, better outcome and higher value care.
The health industry has gone through three eras of evolution: firstly, the era when doctors and integrated delivery networks were the target customers, followed by the era when payers (insurance companies) were the target audience. We are now in the third era – the consumer era. Whether it’s online shopping for the best health-related gadgets or using self-diagnosing equipment, patient empowerment is dictating upcoming innovation. The main reason behind this is a transformation of cultural mindset, even beyond the influence of commercialized technology. Technology is an innovator, not the root cause. Millennials have been exposed to greater awareness campaigns and worldwide disasters that have increased their propensity to take ownership of their own physical and mental healthcare needs.
For sure, robots are introducing great changes in the medical world. The urge to enhance medical productivity and reduce routine errors increases the necessity in healthcare assistance and automation robots. According to a Research and Markets report, the medical robotics market is projected to reach USD 12.80 billion by 2021 — growing at a CAGR of 21.1% from USD 4.90 billion in 2016. Moreover, the IDC predicts that by 2020, one in four hospitals with 200+ beds will have deployed robotics to handle time-consuming tasks, reduce labor, and prevent errors (thereby enhancing the sustainability of their business operations and improving patient safety).
PwC conducted a survey to find out people’s acceptance of robots for delivering different types of healthcare services. They asked the participants if they would be willing for a robot to perform a surgical procedure instead of a doctor. The results revealed that close to half — and up to 73% — of all respondents would be willing to undergo minor surgery performed by a robot (i.e., noninvasive or minimally-invasive surgery such as cataract surgery or laser eye surgery). Around 45% of respondents would be willing to undergo major surgery performed by a robot (i.e. invasive surgery such as replacement of a knee or hip joint, removal of a tumor, or heart surgery). Robots can also be used for rehabilitation and physical therapy (e.g., bionics, exoskeletons, next-gen wearable robots), elder-care assistance, autism (i.e., to enhance social interaction skills) and simplifying surgery as well. Actually, surgical robots comprise the largest component of the medical robotics market. Founded in 2005, Massachusetts-based Medrobotics received FDA clearance for its Flex Robotic System in July 2015. It raised $147.4 million so far to develop a medical robot built on exclusive worldwide licenses for robotics technology from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. The stunning result, the Flex Robotic System allows physicians through its snakelike design and its 180º path to access anatomical locations that are traditionally harder to reach, such as the ear, nose or throat. Surgeons now have a magnified, HD view of anatomical structures for minimally invasive procedures.
There are always security-related risks associated with sharing information, especially in healthcare. Moreover, recent cyber attacks and data breaches only add concerns over the health data security. Blockchain technology is getting more and more topical and can become a new approach and solution for secure patient data storage and transmission. According to the IDC, by 2020, 20% of healthcare organizations will have moved beyond pilot projects and will be using blockchain for supply-chain management and patient identity. Major players like IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Google have even separate units focused on developing blockchain products, including for healthcare. Blockchain-based healthcare systems can be the solution to various issues, such as data interoperability, integrity, security, portability, and many more.
IoT and Wearables
Currently, patients are getting more and more involved in managing their own personal health. More than ever, our wearables and connected devices help us enjoy healthy lifestyle choices and address specific diseases such as COPD, heart arrhythmia, asthma, pain management, and many others. The diversity of devices on the market is really tremendous. Some of the most popular wearable medical device usage is as follows: smartwatches for health, wearable continuous glucose monitors (CGM), wearable pain management devices, wearable cardiovascular disease management devices. And there are many other areas where IoT and wearables can be applied to improve patient’s health and overall lifestyle (e.g., smart pills, smart hospitals, patient identification, etc.). One of the companies which should be mentioned is Medisafe, a Boston-based startup that raised a $14.5m Series B announced on March 1, 2017. Their technology on iOS and Android includes a cloud-synced platform that helps patients keep track of their medications. It’s personalized and family can see if users are on schedule with their different medications. Users also have custom notifications for appointments and refills, medication updates, personalized health recommendations, and discounts. The technology also tracks progress with blood pressure measurements and glucose levels.
Computer –generated simulators are representations of tasks or environments used to facilitate learning. These may be as simple as a computer program to demonstrate the operation of a piece of equipment, such as an anaesthetic machine, or as complex as a detailed virtual reality environment in which participants interact with virtual patients or other health professionals. Simulation-based education (SBE) is a rapidly developing method of supplementing and enhancing the clinical education of medical students. Clinical situations are simulated for teaching and learning purposes, creating opportunities for deliberate practice of new skills without involving real patients. Emerging evidence supports the value of simulation as an educational technique; to be effective it needs to be integrated into the curriculum in a way that promotes transfer of the skills learnt to clinical practice. An important influence on the use of SBE is the patient safety agenda. Adverse events and resultant patient harm are often attributed to failures in communication and teamwork. Practice in simulated learning environments can reduce some of the underlying causes of adverse events. SBE has the potential to provide greater efficiency and rigour compared with learning through opportunistic clinical experiences. Clinical situations and events can be scheduled, observed and then repeated so learning can be consolidated. SBE can also ensure that students have a degree of clinical competence before exposure to real patients. This has positive implications for both patient safety and training time. Furthermore, SBE can enhance the transfer of theoretical knowledge to the clinical context and ease the transition to the clinical years and into the workforce. A major challenge with teaching and learning in clinical settings is that it is opportunistic and unstructured. This can be overwhelming for students who are often required to attempt tasks for which they are ill-prepared. SBE allows deconstruction of clinical skills into their component parts, so students can be presented with scenarios and tasks appropriate for their stage of learning, thus reducing the cognitive load. Without the complexities of dealing with real patients, students can focus on mastering basic skills and can more readily abstract principles from their experiences to apply in other settings. A key advantage of SBE is the ability to create learning environments that facilitate deliberate practice. Students can rehearse their clinical skills within a structured framework in a focused and repetitive manner, thereby refining their skills until their performance becomes fluent and instinctive. PureMedSim Technology, an AUG.global company, focuses exclusively on the development of highly technological medical simulators and systems. Their simulation technology is unique and as close as possible to real processes taking place in the human organism. No one could have modeled biochemical transformations in an organism before and they have placed the module of biochemical transformations in the core of their system.
The role and value of medical technology is increasing by leaps and bounds as healthcare is becoming digital to an ever larger extent. As has been the case for several years, the medical sector is taking advantage of technologies originally developed in other industries, and adapting them to improve and broaden healthcare services.