Medical technology (MedTech) product development continues to be one of the fastest evolving subsets of the product development industry. While it is difficult to say what’s in the road ahead, it’s always interesting to look back at some of the most pervasive MedTech development trends. Here is a brief review of the trends, advancements and current use cases we see popping up as common themes here in 2019.
1. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
There’s no doubt that the market of artificial intelligence is projected to grow into some massive amount in just the health industry alone, however AI applications have the potential to save $105 billion annually by 2026. The use of AI is widespread across so many different fields yet has propelled each of those fields to an innovative point.
Smart prosthetics or bionics are self-learning and an extension of the wearer’s mind, able to move as a response to the wearer’s thoughts. The hard part comes in when prosthetics must behave like natural muscle movements would. There have also been use cases of A.I. in analyzing genetic makeups for a personalized cancer treatment that takes into account potential side effects or risk factors associated with that gene. And for one of the most highlighted uses of A.I. in the medical field, robotic surgeries have also continued to make headway with surgeons controlling robotic hands and self-correcting AI for any tremors or shakes made by human error.
2. Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR)
With augmented reality and virtual reality, depth is one of the key aspects to accuracy. Doctors, students and surgeons can train and see 3D renditions that look exactly like the real thing, where 2D imaging has always lacked that functionality. The current educational uses can help future precision and reduce errors when dealing with sensitive components of the body like the brain or heart.
Mixed reality has had a positive effect on re-training the human body especially after paralysis or accidents. Studies have shown that real-time interaction with generated objects or scenarios are safer and more approachable for the human body.
3. Wearable Smart Technology
We’re all familiar with wearable fitness trackers like Apple Watch and Fitbit and their abilities to track basic physical activity like steps, miles, and heart rate. Now, there are wearable ECG monitors to detect atrial fibrillation, wearable blood pressure monitors, and even contact lenses used to monitor glucose levels for diabetes. There’s been a rapid increase of wearable health device usage, with hospital-grade technology worn on your wrist or in your eye.
The future of wearable health devices is in its ability to be less invasive, more transparent, and more flexible for everyday usage. The amount of information that wearables can detect and transmit back in real-time will allow for more proactive diagnoses of major illnesses like cancer or Parkinson’s. The infusion of artificial intelligence into wearable health devices was first approved by the FDA in April, a smart device is able to measure vital signs like pulse and oxygen with machine learning analyzing any abnormalities.
4. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
With an aging population and a drastic focus towards the Baby Boomer demographic, remote and virtual doctor’s appointments and real-time monitoring have gained traction in the MedTech community. Now, with better video resolution and instantaneous data transferring capability, the Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) market is predicted to reach $1.8 billion in 2027. RPM systems can collect patient vitals and biometrics in real-time, sending it back to doctors to treat immediately for more proactive diagnoses.
This, coupled with the general ease of access to a doctor and treatment, reduces costs significantly with RPM and telemedicine with less hospital visits and optimized appointment ties. With healthcare costs continuing to rise, remote medicine and monitoring of anything from heart rate to glucose levels are making strides in the medical world.
In the first half of 2019, 32 million patient records were breached - double the total amount in the entire year of 2018. Cyber security and data breaches are one of the most harming villains against private healthcare information and while added HIPPA regulations to keep patient health records safe over the cloud have helped, it’s not enough.
Blockchain is a decentralized data storage across a peer-to-peer network. The entire blockchain process helps increase data security by using cryptography, full transparency, and zero modification, especially when used across a vast and very private healthcare record system that is prone to harm. It’s a chain of data blocks that can be accessed using a public-private key, new users can see all the information in the record but won’t be able to modify any data in that block.
Blockchain’s anti-tampering functionalities could potentially help reduce data hacks and tampering if implemented, however blockchain can also increase interoperability of all patient healthcare records by making them visible (yet secure) across every hospital network.
6. 3D Bioprinting
3D printing has been around and gained traction in a multitude fields, yet the 3D bioprinting market has promise and success in saving lives. 3D bioprinting is printing in 3D but with live biological human tissue and living human cells, turning them into fully functioning organ components that are used inside the human body. This process is done by taking a sample of the cell from the body part needed to create bio-ink, which then must interact with biomaterial to create the living part.
Volumetric bioprinting can print off functional and personalized 3D parts in seconds using beams of lasers, and while printing off functioning whole organs for transplant is still in research, printing off heart valves and ventricles has seen success. 3D bioprinting doesn’t just exist for organ transplants, education and drug testing have all flocked to 3D bioprinting.
The future of MedTech is unknown, yet so innovative thus far, continuing to make this an industry for wishful speculation. Technologies are constantly evolving, preconceived notions of the norm are thrown out, and great minds are constantly looking to build upon what has already been done. Nectar takes pride in our involvement in the MedTech industry and are at the forefront of this fast-paced innovation. MedTech product development continues to be one of the fastest evolving subsets of the product development industry. Visit our work page HERE to take a look at some of our MedTech work and other product development projects.